Sloppy science and Stapel

28 November 2012 - Fraud

Yes, the official Diederik Stapel report is out (NOS News). Find it at Scribd or (here in English).
I have always wondered how the guy could get away with publishing over 30 fraudulent psychology papers. His fabricated data even ended up in his students Ph.D theses! It was very easy. He claimed he knew schools and teaching staff in these schools with students willing to fill out the questionnaires required for the research. After collecting the questionnaires he threw them in a bin and then made up the results. He was also more than happy to do the grunt work in the psychology laboratory, taking the tedious data collection and analysis away from his students. In chemistry students do all the hard labour but apparently in some psychology communities it is the other way round.
But do you know any chemistry professors that place themselves between you and the analytical balance and always report 100% yields back to you? Should you not become suspicious when denied access to analytical data other than the data fed back to you by your professor that also look way too clean? The really interesting part about the Stapel case is that none of the 30 or so co-authors of his papers or even the 10 people supervised by Stapel for their Ph.D thesis did get into trouble and can continue their careers.

As an aside, from the report it becomes evident that test subjects in all studies were students and possibly even exclusively psychology students whose presence at "testing days" was mandatory. Even if no fraud takes place how valuable are data taken exclusively from students?
Another interesting aside: the report recommends that in the future no publicity should be given to scientific fraud investigations because that would hamper fact finding. And you were thinking more publicity would prevent future fraud cases?

Although Stapel made a full confession and turned in his Ph.D title, do not expect any humility from him. In a media statement today he claimed he was self-delusional and that he was convinced 'he was only helping people'. The self-delusion part is true: this Friday his new book is in the bookshops.