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Tilburg professor faked data in at least 30 academic publications

Monday 31 October 2011

Tilburg and Groningen universities are to take legal action against one of their professors after an investigation showed he had faked research data in at least 30 scientific papers.

The fraud is ‘considerable and shocking’, the committee set up to look into Diederik Stapel’s academic publications said in an initial report into the scandal on Monday.

Stapel, who was a professor of social and behavioural sciences at Tilburg, was suspended last month after doubts emerged about research that concluded eating meat makes people anti-social and selfish.


The investigation shows at least 30 academic papers submitted to respected scientific journals contained data that he had invented and there are doubts about several dozen more, the committee said.

In total, statistics quoted in 150 papers dating back to 2004 when Stapel worked at Groningen University, are being examined.

The investigation committee also accused Stapel of abusing his position by damaging the reputations of young researchers who worked with him. False statistical data was used in 14 out of 21 doctoral theses mentored by Stapel, the NRC said.


‘Stapel has misused his partners for his own glory,’ committee chairman Pim Levelt said. ‘He lied to them. They can no longer take pride in their own publications and in some instances, will have to alter their cvs.’

In a written response to the allegations published on the Brabants Dagblad newspaper website, Stapels says he has ‘failed as a researcher and academic’.

‘I realize now that my behavior has stunned and angered my colleagues and put my area of expertise – social psychology – in a bad light,’ he wrote. ‘I am embarrassed and deeply sorry for this.’

Earlier research by Stapel, a frequent guest on television chat shows, found that a messy room makes people aggressive and beautiful people have better chances in life.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

This is shocking. For a student a doctoral thesis is a result of several years of hard work and is a treasure for life. To suddenly find that it had been based on some fake data must be heart breaking for the students.

By Ashok | 31 October 2011 4:04 PM

A (supposedly) inteligent person only realises,once he's caught, that his behaviour will "stun & anger" his colleagues.
So, not very intelligent!

By Donaugh | 31 October 2011 4:13 PM

While it is deplorable (if not downright criminal) that he submitted false data, let's not forget the kind of science it is. His kind of science is soft science and soft science-lite at that.

His 'work' is on the level of 'Do blonds really have more fun?'. This is a loss for all the psychology-lite publications. At least no lives were lost with this bad science.

By Dave Horne | 31 October 2011 4:20 PM

This is disgraceful and a real blow to the Netherlands academic community especially as they have been struggling to improve the academic ranking of its universities.

By Quince | 31 October 2011 5:31 PM

What is amazing is the fact that in such a well 'policed' society, it should have taken 7 years, give or take, to uncover the untruths. Is there such little research replication undertaken? The real damage is to the credibility of the scientific community as a whole. Suggestions as to personal sanctions anyone?

By Roger Thurman | 31 October 2011 6:11 PM

It is hard to cope with so much trips and writting. When you read cvs you realize eassy who do the same. the trouble is how to tell old prof. she forged almost all.

By VRS | 31 October 2011 8:37 PM

Thank you for reminding me what the phrase 'Stapel gek' means.

By Henk in Colorado | 1 November 2011 1:05 AM

I assume he had his own views about such things as meat eating, that he wanted to propagate.

By Willem | 1 November 2011 9:50 AM

Beautiful people have it easier in life? You need a PHD to figure that out? He should work on global warming now. The press doesn't mind if you lie about that stuff.

By doug | 1 November 2011 1:29 PM

It's scientific sin for scholars conducting academic fraud.The fraud is
found worldwide, espectially in Masters &
Ph.D. degrees.

Bangkok, Thailand.

By Kampechara Puriparinya | 1 November 2011 2:17 PM

Let's see if THIS comment makes it through the censors. I'm going to research this professor and find out if his research was used in ANY UN programs/initiatives. It's not at all shocking to me that a researcher/professor was faking findings and statistics. What's shocking is that is dishonest practices are being exposed. ClimateGate anyone?

By Lisa | 1 November 2011 5:09 PM

What’s the big deal? It’s psychology, which is not a real science anyhow; it’s ALL made up as they go along. No other science—for lack of a better word—is as indifferent to actual research and solid evidence.

By John Mayer | 2 November 2011 4:02 AM

Lisa, there WAS no “climategate” and that all the—very few—researchers involved in that little incident of theft of email have been completely exonerated of anything more serious than blowing off steam at the scheming of fossil fuels corporations and the idiots who believe everything they say.

By John Mayer | 2 November 2011 4:06 AM

Most, if not all, of the corrupt papers are published in high-impact journals and peer-reviewed by experts in the field prior to acceptance. This is especially true for journals like Science where each paper is additionally reviewed by a member(s) of the Board of Reviewing Editors comprising ~ 175 leading scientists. Finally, publications are required to include a methodology section describing the data collection/analyses procedures and which is one of the main parts for scrutiny during review.

This comes first to show that the data were not as 'fishy' as journalists and people with a lot of free time to point fingers present it and, second, that there is nothing unusual in using established collaborators to collect the data.

By Petya | 6 November 2011 7:40 PM

Such collaborations or paid sub-contracting of off-campus facilities, academic entities, etc. are typical in today's scientific practice and it is definitely not limited to the field of social psychology. Importantly, not only is it typical practice but it is often vital for the sake of timeliness of research (especially relevant in the field of social psychology) and communication of results.

Therefore I would think twice before making conclusions and pointing fingers and deeply feel for the affected parties, especially PhD students. What is most important in a PhD degree is hypothesis formation and DESIGN of experiments to collect and analyze relevant data, rather than handing out questionnaires in person, basically the part of the process that Stapel forged.

By Petya | 6 November 2011 7:41 PM

What is going to happen to the many papers that has been published by Stapel and his collaborators? Will all of them be withdrawn, except for those where there is clear proof that no one tampered with the data, or will they only withdraw the papers where there is clear proof that someone had tampered with the data. In my view the only chance of regaining respectability for his collaborators and for the journals in which he published would be if the stricter of these criteria is applied. When I read the name Stapel I will suspect fraud, except if it has been proven beyond all doubt that the particularly article used data that was not fabricated or massaged.

By Pieterleroux | 7 November 2011 12:33 PM

Unfortunately, Stapel is not the only teacher of UvT doing this. A similar experience happened to me recently, with 2 other teachers of Social and Behavioral Sciences faculty, who started to threaten me that I won't finish my studies, after I refused to alter data. The situation is not clear yet, probably you'll read about it in the press, in the immediate future. Overall, I realized that UvT is a lousy university, "filled" with "second-hand" teachers, not capable to teach correctly, to choose correctly the materials for their courses, or to demand correct knowledge from their students. They know just to ask students to reproduce paragraphs, instead of reasoning or logically leaning principles and theories. Shame!

By John | 24 November 2011 2:24 AM

But on the other hand, this really wasn't hard science. This was very soft science on the level of, Do Blonds Really Have More Fun?

By Dave Horne | 25 November 2011 7:30 PM

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