Friday, June 29, 2012

More bogus psychology research

Discover magazine reports:
Social psychology is not having the best time of it. After last year’s scandal in which rising star Diederik Stapel was found guilty of scientific fraud, Dirk Smeesters from Erasmus University is also facing charges of misconduct. Here’s Ivan Oransky, writing in Retraction Watch:

“According to an Erasmus press release, a scientific integrity committee found that the results in two of Smeesters’ papers were statistically highly unlikely. Smeesters could not produce the raw data behind the findings, and told the committee that he cherry-picked the data to produce a statistically significant result. Those two papers are being retracted, and the university accepted Smeesters’ resignation on June 21.”

The notable thing about this particular instance of misconduct is that it wasn’t uncovered by internal whistleblowers, as were psychology’s three big fraud cases – Diederik Stapel (exposed in 2011), Marc Hauser (2010) and Karen Ruggiero (2001). Instead, Smeesters was found out because someone external did some data-sleuthing and deemed one of his papers “too good to be true”...

As one of his co-authors writes, “Unlike Stapel, Dirk actually ran studies.” Instead, he was busted for behaviour that many of his peers wouldn’t consider to be that unusual. He even says as much. Again, from Enserink’s report:

“According to the report, Smeesters said this type of massaging was nothing out of the ordinary. He “repeatedly indicates that the culture in his field and his department is such that he does not feel personally responsible, and is convinced that in the area of marketing and (to a lesser extent) social psychology, many consciously leave out data to reach significance without saying so.”
My bigger complaint is about psychologists who testify in court with opinions that are contrary to the generally accepted research. But corruption runs deep in the field, much of the published research is questionable.

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