A leading Dutch social psychologist fabricated or manipulated information in dozens of research papers over almost a decade, an investigation has concluded. Diederik Stapel was suspended from his post at Tilburg University in the Netherlands in September after 3 junior researchers reported that they suspected scientific misconduct in his research. Not long after the allegations, Stapel reportedly admitted that some of his papers contained falsified information. The university began investigating, as did the University of Amsterdam and the University of Groningen, where Stapel worked previously.
The Tilburg commission released an interim report with preliminary results from the investigations last week. They found “several dozens of publications” in which false information was used. Fourteen of the 21 PhD theses Stapel supervised are also marred, they concluded. Stapel’s work included controversial topics such as reaction of psychologists to a plagiarism scandal and the influence of power on moral thinking. Many of his students graduated without ever running an experiment, according to the report. Stapel told them that they were better off spending their time researching and analysing data.
“People are in shock,” says Gerben van Kleef, a social psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, who did not work with Stapel directly. “Everybody wonders how this could have happened and at this proportion.” At least two groups of whistleblowers had earlier raised concerns about Stapel’s work, the commission found, but no one followed up on those concerns. Stapel’s fabrications were quite unsophisticated, the committee says, and upon analysis the data quickly reveals itself as false.
The report advises that the universities of Tilburg and Groningen investigate whether he should be criminally charged based on misuse of research funds and possible harm to Stapel’s students as a result of fraud. ~ Science Insider, Oct 31
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