Dutch psychologist apologizes for research fraud (Update)

November 28, 2012 by Mike Corder

A Dutch social psychologist issued a public apology Wednesday after an inquiry found he faked or manipulated data in at least 55 publications.

Diederik Stapel said in a statement aired on the national broadcaster NOS he had "failed as a scientist" for perpetrating one of the worst cases of scientific fraud on record in the Netherlands.

But commissions set up to investigate his fraud at three universities, which first came to light last year, concluded it was not only Stapel who failed, but also the academic research community culture which allowed "this large-scale fraud ... to go unnoticed for so long."

"In the case of the fraud committed by Mr. Stapel, the critical function of science has failed on all levels," the commissions' final report said. "Fundamental principles of scientific method were ignored, or set aside as irrelevant."

Pim Levelt, who led the inquiry into Stapel's work at Tilburg University, said an analysis of Stapel's work showed "research practices in which sloppy science was the order of the day."

Stapel was fired last year by Tilburg university after his fraud was first revealed.

Prior to his unmasking as a fraud, Stapel had been a darling of the Dutch social psychology community, known for headline-grabbing research.

He once claimed to have shown that the very act of thinking about eating meat makes people behave more selfishly and he co-authored a paper published in Science magazine that said white people are more prone to discriminate against black people when they encounter them in a messy environment, such as one containing litter, abandoned bicycles and broken sidewalks.

"These findings considerably advance our knowledge of the impact of the physical environment on stereotyping and discrimination and have clear policy implications," the paper's abstract said.

Science later retracted the paper, according to the magazine's website.

Stapel's fraud was eventually uncovered when three graduate students became suspicious of data he supplied them without allowing them to participate in the actual research. When they ran statistical tests on it themselves they found it too perfect to be true and went to Tilburg University's dean with their suspicions.

Levelt said Wednesday that if experiments did not produce the results Stapel wanted, he would repeat them with minor changes. "Only the results that did meet expectations were reported. That way, a hypothesis is, of course, always confirmed."

The commissions confirmed fraud in 55 publications during Stapel's time at Tilburg and Groningen universities and found "indications" of fraud in 11 other papers from his work at the universities of Groningen and Amsterdam.

Levelt said Stapel's work had severely shaken academic research circles.

"The foundation of scientific cooperation is mutual trust," Levelt told reporters in Amsterdam. "When that trust is badly damaged as it was in the Stapel case it erodes the foundation of scientific research."

Stapel said he felt "deep, deep regret for what I have inflicted on others.

"I feel sadness, shame and self-reproach," he added. "The truth would have been better off without me."

Explore further: Popular Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel found to be a fraud

1 shares

Related Stories

Popular Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel found to be a fraud

November 2, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Diederik Stapel, the Dutch social psychologist who has made news on a rather regular basis over the last several years, and who had even become popular on some television chat shows, has been found to ...

US charges 91 in wave of health fraud cases

September 8, 2011
US authorities have charged 91 people over some $295 million in alleged fraud schemes related to Medicare, the government-run health program for seniors, the Justice Department said.

Study shows disorder may cause an increase stereotyping

April 8, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- A study performed by Dutch social scientists Diederik Stapel and Siegwart Lindenberg, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, suggests that people may resort to stereotyping to cope with the stress associated ...

Recommended for you

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

Best of Last Year – The top Medical Xpress articles of 2016

December 23, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—It was a big year for research involving overall health issues, starting with a team led by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health who unearthed more evidence that ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2012
"Gee, I'm sorry." And life goes on. Sigh.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.