How a scientist becomes a con man

Fraud and deceit are a slippery slope

Story submitted by Bruce Webster

An article in the New York Times chronicles the descent of a sociologist into wholesale fraud. It is worth reading the whole article, because I believe it offers insight into some of the pressures, temptations, and self-rationalizations that many scientists struggle with.

Here is one key passage that will likely not surprise anyone here at WUWT (all emphasis in quoted text is mine):

Each case of research fraud that’s uncovered triggers a similar response from scientists. First disbelief, then anger, then a tendency to dismiss the perpetrator as one rotten egg in an otherwise-honest enterprise. But the scientific misconduct that has come to light in recent years suggests at the very least that the number of bad actors in science isn’t as insignificant as many would like to believe. And considered from a more cynical point of view, figures like Hwang and Hauser are not outliers so much as one end on a continuum of dishonest behaviors that extend from the cherry-picking of data to fit a chosen hypothesis — which many researchers admit is commonplace — to outright fabrication.

“Cherry-picking of data” is, of course, not an unknown topic in these parts. But here’s an even more intriguing passage:

Stapel did not deny that his deceit was driven by ambition. But it was more complicated than that, he told me. He insisted that he loved social psychology but had been frustrated by the messiness of experimental data, which rarely led to clear conclusions. His lifelong obsession with elegance and order, he said, led him to concoct sexy results that journals found attractive. “It was a quest for aesthetics, for beauty — instead of the truth,” he said. He described his behavior as an addiction that drove him to carry out acts of increasingly daring fraud, like a junkie seeking a bigger and better high.

And again:

What the public didn’t realize, he said, was that academic science, too, was becoming a business. “There are scarce resources, you need grants, you need money, there is competition,” he said. “Normal people go to the edge to get that money. Science is of course about discovery, about digging to discover the truth. But it is also communication, persuasion, marketing. I am a salesman. I am on the road. People are on the road with their talk. With the same talk. It’s like a circus.”

And finally how it all turned out:

…the universities unveiled their final report at a joint news conference: Stapel had committed fraud in at least 55 of his papers, as well as in 10 Ph.D. dissertations written by his students. The students were not culpable, even though their work was now tarnished. The field of psychology was indicted, too, with a finding that Stapel’s fraud went undetected for so long because of “a general culture of careless, selective and uncritical handling of research and data.” If Stapel was solely to blame for making stuff up, the report stated, his peers, journal editors and reviewers of the field’s top journals were to blame for letting him get away with it. The committees identified several practices as “sloppy science” — misuse of statistics, ignoring of data that do not conform to a desired hypothesis and the pursuit of a compelling story no matter how scientifically unsupported it may be.

A lesson for climate science. Be sure to read the whole thing.  ..bruce..

Source of story : http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/diederik-stapels-audacious-academic-fraud.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

 

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Edohiguma

Sociologist =/= scientist.
Sociologists deal with statistics.
Science and statistics are not synonymous. Discovery of a numerical discrepancy is not science. Accounting for that discrepancy in a reproducible manner is science.

PaulH

A little more here too:
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-03/investigators-discover-50th-fake-study-disgraced-dutch-psychologist
Final paragraph in that article left me shaking my head.

His field was “Social Psychology.”

LamontT

” Edohiguma says:
April 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm
Sociologist =/= scientist.
Sociologists deal with statistics.
Science and statistics are not synonymous. Discovery of a numerical discrepancy is not science. Accounting for that discrepancy in a reproducible manner is science.”
—————————————————————————————–
So wait your agreeing that climate scientists are also not scientists?
After all Climate Scientists deal with statistics.
Statistics and [bad] statistical analysis are at the heart of every claim by climate scientists and every computerized climate model.

Sounds awfully familiar …

Kajajuk

The Age of Deceit is upon us all. Just ask your financial advisor hehehehe

john robertson

Perfect cover for the juveniles of Climatology(TM)
Every one else does it.
So why are you picking on us?

Lil Fella from OZ

He would have to consider himself a tad stiff, considering what is ‘done’ in AGW.
It is very simple what happened, he fed his ego which had an insatiable desire of fame.

Ken Mitchell

Paraphrasing Robert Heinlein, “Any discipline with the word ‘science’ in the name, such as ‘social science’, isn’t one.”

Jon

See this a lot in Norway with all the social sciences we have here.
As long as their results support the leftist the funding will keep on comming?
One could might argue that the “Team” have ideological/political limits and aims for their results? Social Climate (non) science?

Glad you posted this Bruce, I was going to suggest it as well. Thanks. Here is another dealing with Medical Science:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/308269/
It appears that wherever there is money, charlatans will come running. Thank goodness for the Volunteer Defenders of Science in all of us.

John@EF

Kent Clizbe says:
April 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm
His field was “Social Psychology.”
=========================
Shhhhh … you’re disturbing the mind numbing implied message.

Timely post from the NY Times….on how the Dean of Social and Behavioral “Science” had a “post modern relationship with truth”…and is now in contention for the “biggest con man in academic science”. In the process, this expert on “research ethics” burned 20 of his PhD post grad students and the university’s personality assessment investigation finding was that of an “arrogant bully” who “cozied up to students to manipulate them.”
Any similarity to behaviors in “other” branches of science, is purely coincidental.

KevinK

Luckily, as an engineer, I get IMMEDIATE feedback when I stray from the “straight and narrow”, i.e. did you really predict that your new circuit design would disappear in a cloud of plasma and smoke ???
An old “sparky” (electrical engineer) joke; SURELY that new circuit design is WAY TOO YOUNG TO SMOKE…………
Reality, it’s the NEW DRUG, you should try it some time.
Cheers, Kevin

jorgekafkazar

statistics ≠ science
modeling ≠ experiment
distorted data ≠ truth
unfalsifiable hypotheses ≠ science
unreproducible results ≠ science
faulty logic ≠ science
Stapel is the tip of the iceberg. We should be grateful for the few scientists who have neither sold out nor failed to speak out while Science was being perverted, prostituted, and postmodernized.

This is good. Get it into the public mind that scientific fraud does indeed happen, and maybe a few will start thinking. Climate science is rife with it – time to sort out the mess (there’ll be quite a few sweating about now, and I reckon a few having nightmares, too).

Jeff L

““There are scarce resources, you need grants, you need money, there is competition,” he said. “Normal people go to the edge to get that money. Science is of course about discovery, about digging to discover the truth. But it is also communication, persuasion, marketing. I am a salesman. I am on the road. People are on the road with their talk. With the same talk. It’s like a circus.”
————————-
It has been 25 years since I exited grad school in geophysics. Those who have never been directly involved in graduate level studies funded by grants would have a hard time comprehending how much salesmanship & questionable representation goes on. I haven’t seen anything that compares to it in the “real world”, in terms of doing what ever is necessary to bring in the money (grants). Academics are far from angels, but I can’t fault them too much in that they are doing what they have to do to survive – if they don’t have grant money, they essentially don’t have a job or income.
The real fault comes from the media , the politicians & others who have no idea what is really going on & how motivated by money (not big money, just survival grant money) academics are.
Until we get double blind funding of research, nothing will change

mike

Oh to be a fly on the wall in Bristol.

Janice Moore

Re: Ed Ohiguma (1805) and Lamont T (1815) who, I believe, misunderstood Ed.
Ed (clarified):
Genuine scientists use statistics.
Not all people that use statistics are scientists.
Therefore, use of statistics does not, per se, make a sociologist a genuine scientist.
The end.
(and, also, Ed did not support climatology pseudo-scientists even though they use statistics).
Lamont T adds the truth that Cult of Climatology scientists misuse statistics to fool people.

AnonyMoose

I just read that a few hours ago. I’m now also following Retraction Watch and their wide assortment of research problems. From simple plagiarism to reverse plagiarism to frauds… and an unknown liquid accidentally messing up a liver cell study.

Lew Skannen

It is very unfortunate but at least I can take heart that it could never happen in Australia. Definitely not in the School of Psychology at UWA. That is for sure.

KevinM

His field was “Social Psychology.”
=========================
Shhhhh … you’re disturbing the mind numbing implied message.
=========================
Yeah. Imagine owning a Social Psychology degree on top of 100k in student loans. Not many options in the private sector but collecting insurance payments for consoling neglected middle class housewives.
I have no love for climate charlatains but at least some of them could survive in legitimate fields. Sorry host, meteorologist comes to mind.

Lewis P Buckingham

(Page 6 of 9)
Stapel dumped most of the questionnaires into a trash bin outside campus. At home, using his own scale, he weighed a mug filled with M&M’s and sat down to simulate the experiment. While filling out the questionnaire, he ate the M&M’s at what he believed was a reasonable rate and then weighed the mug again to estimate the amount a subject could be expected to eat. He built the rest of the data set around that number. He told me he gave away some of the M&M stash and ate a lot of it himself. “I was the only subject in these studies,” he said.’
Yes, but what about the hard questions?
Did he eat the red ones last?
If so was he against Capitalism and on the Red end of the spectrum?
Was he in a dissociative state unable to discriminate between himself, [mug one], and the mug that stood before him?
Was he a Red one denier?
Did he believe the Moon landings were faked?

Stapel could always go to work at State Penn’s Department of Junk Science.

thelastdemocrat

Ironic.
Regarding these scientists who are being labelelled as un-scientific…
The social scientists are the ones who are having the greatest success in predicting and controlling the world.
They took the ideals of science and applied them to various topics such as communication, persuasion, social trends, and so on. They figured out how society works. They figured out that a message repeated enough becomes believed. They figured out that people want to be correct, and “in the know.” They explored the topic of “values,” and so learned how to appeal to and manipulate values. They figured out the glue of society, our cultural hegemony, and have used that knowledge to unglue us.
I have heard it said that a very admirable goal in science is to predict accurately, and a higher goal is to control outcomes.
These educated elistist intellectuals grabbed the ideas of science and have used them to grab hold of our society.
Now, we are supposed to be “green” or else be evil outcasts. We are supposed to be sympathetic to the lazy and shiftless, and blame the hard-working, and the job-creators, for the plight of the lazy and shiftless. We are supposed to admire religious terrorists as they fight against our sins of being too powerful globally. We are supposed to accept Gosnell killing newborns and blame anything negative revealed in his trial as demonstrating the need for legal abortion. Oil has been a lead factor for improving the human condition, but for many oil and oil companies have been branded as a leading evil in our society. A sober, hard-working faithful father is an image of mockery, and vagabond drug-addled lothario is a hero.
They have used science to re-engineer society, and we have not even noticed them doing this. Maybe these sociologists are not scientists, but they sure have been successful. You can discount them if you want. I do not, and am very concerned about how to counter-act these forces for the future of my children.
The typical WUWT reader trucks with these re-creators of society. They sell us what we want. We want to shrug off religion – done – we now are all enlightened by science. We want casual se x – done. We all now have all the se x ed we want in school, we have govt-financed treatment of STDs, and soon enough will have govt funed abortion, just as in the communist bloc. WE don;t want to have to fulfill the arduous task of parenting our children – done – their errant development is now labelled as a psychaitric illness, and there is a solid social taboo against “blame the mother.”
We have all benefitted from these social scientists, social psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists. Let’s not turn our back on them now.

Rob

It is quite interesting psychologically. He says he originally did faithfully accurate attempts to work out complicated relationships and found journals were not ‘into that’. From there the ascent into pure malarkey became a self sustaining addiction.

“KevinM says: April 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I have no love for climate charlatains but at least some of them could survive in legitimate fields. Sorry host, meteorologist comes to mind.”

Oh? You mean there are climate charlatans out there who are intelligent, well groomed, well spoken, hard working, scientifically sincere and pleasant people who could do work as meteorologists? Even when they will patiently be held accountable for all forecasts, every day and all day.
Somehow, I find that rather difficult to believe.

Master_Of_Puppets

Advances in Geophysics, Vol. 25, 1983.
I return to this work each year when writing a research paper.
I was in the 90’s and 00’s an avid reader of all issues of JGR and GRL.
Yet surprisingly, ‘The Theory of Climate’ as explained in volume 25 is as new today as then, i.e. no advance since 1983, absolutely nothing new discovered in 30 years.
What a moras.
Could it be that the publication of Volume 25, Advances in Geophysics, “The Theory of Climate” so infuriated a small group of alarmists, extremists, that in their collective hatred they organized and formed the International Panel on Climate Change UN, in order to ‘end-game’ the well established physics based science of 1983.
Within volume 25, only two references to Hansen, by Manabe in Chapter 2 (very interesting his examination of ‘assumptions’) and not a reference to anything Trendberth. How delightful.
I will still reference this work for many decades to come.

DaveA

Yep it’s worth reading the whole lot. Let’s hope Lewancooksy reads it too.

Frederick Michael

The story reminded me of why doping is so common in sports.

Galane

“arrogant bully” who “cozied up to students to manipulate them.”
So by twiddling his students’ work, he only screwed them figuratively, not literally? The literal one is what teachers and professors get fired over.

Hoser

Ken Mitchell says:
April 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm

RAH’s rule (via Ken): If it has to have ‘science’ in the name, it isn’t science.
Corollary: If it has to have ‘smart’ in the name, it isn’t (e.g. smart grid).
Political similarity: If it has to have ‘Democratic’ in the name, it’s not a free country.
Hmmm, I think we are transforming into the States of American Democracy (well, I couldn’t resist the acronym).
Biological reality: If it has two X chromosomes, you’ve already lost, Dude.

Jtom

I have long said that the climate debate seemed to have a lot in common with a scandal in the field of history a decade or so ago. If you have not read of the Michael Bellesile affair, you should. It had some close parallels – a popular theory bought lock, stock, and barrel (an apt phrase if you know the story) by a community of liberal historians; a denouncement of any disagreement from outside the community with the claim that only historians could determine the truth, insistance that the NRA was behind the attack on peer-reviewed professional studies, a claim of getting threats by mail, and an epic downfall of the theory led by the dogged work of a software programmer who was working on a degree in history, and an attorney who was an amature historian. Unfortunately, damage had already been done. The fraudulant work had been cited in court cases. I suspect some students are still citing the discredited research. Once fraud is committed it takes on a life of its own and can not be completely killed. That is easily seen today by the large number of people associating autism with vaccinations, despite the underlaying study having been shown to be fake.

AndyG55

DaveA.. you beat me to it !!
Lewindowsky and Cook certainly are from the same ooze as these two.
The difference is that their fraud and deceit is open for all to see, and yet still accepted !!!!!!!!!!!!!

AndyG55

Social science has as much relationship to real science as a soya steak has to real beef.

Sociology is not a science, so it’s not a scientist who committed fraud. Sociology is in the same league as astrology, reflexology, whateverology. You either believ ein that mess or you don’t but any resemblence to actual facts is totally absent. In fact committing fraud is more a question of intent since all sociology is a big fraud.

manicbeancounter

Thinking of dishonest behaviours, have a look at Fig 5.19 of NOAA’s Greenland Ice Sheet report Card for 2012. The right hand scale shows the equivalent rise of sea level of the projected ice melt.
Then look at the University of Colarado Sea Level rise.
http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/images-terrcryo/g-fig5.19.jpg
http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/greenland_ice_sheet.html
http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
Is it reasonable to ask how Greenland ice melt can go from 0% to 200% of sea level rise in a decade?

Gary Hladik

Hmm. Looks like no one has written this yet, so I guess I’ll have to (it’s a dirty job…).
Ahem.
OMG, it’s worse than we thought!!!

jorgekafkazar

Jeff L says: :”Academics are far from angels, but I can’t fault them too much in that they are doing what they have to do to survive…”
Sorry, their metaphorical “survival” has jeopardized the actual survival of our entire civilization, diverted money from more worthwhile causes, promoted the use of biofuels at the cost of human lives lost to starvation, and aided and abetted a resurgence of Socialism, the failed creed that resulted in the deaths of 120,000,000 people in the 20th Century, alone. That’s twenty Holocausts. No, we can and should fault many of these academics as ethical failures and utter parasites. That is their Lysenkoist legacy. Let it be written in large letters and never forgotten.

Ed Zuiderwijk

“The field of psychology was indicted, too, ….”
Psychologist heal thyself!

Latimer Alder

Summary:
‘At least one ‘academic’ is an arrogant lying cheating bastard’
Who knew?

Robertv

Average temperatures in Portugal have in the last 40 years increased at a rate of 0.5 degrees per decade – twice as fast as globally – posing major dangers to the country, a climate expert has warned.
http://theportugalnews.com/news/temperature-rise-in-portugal-twice-global-rate-poses-threats/28299
A study carried out by researchers from varous universities, showed “systematic temperature increases that can reach three to seven degrees centigrade in summer, with stronger heating in the north and central interior and a strong increment in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves” in mainland Portugal.

Robertv

The Portuguese met office (IPMA) said that the weather is going to change dramatically in the coming days with a steep fall in temperatures and snow over high ground.
http://theportugalnews.com/news/springtime-with-hill-snow-and-polar-air/28297
Portugal is getting cooler because it is getting warmer ?

DirkH

jorgekafkazar says:
April 29, 2013 at 11:52 pm
“lives lost to starvation, and aided and abetted a resurgence of Socialism, the failed creed that resulted in the deaths of 120,000,000 people in the 20th Century, alone. That’s twenty Holocausts. No, we can and should fault many of these academics as ethical failures and utter parasites.”
Just the other day I read another Malthusian meltdown by money manager Jeremy Grantham, the boss of despicable loudmouth Bob Ward, and one by a Club Of Rome member, both still playing the warming card and fantasizing about the limited carrying capacity of Earth; so they both still want to depopulate the planet.
Eugenics (invented by Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin) and Wamism are both pseudosciences invented and used by the Malthusian movement to achieve their goal of depopulation. And they don’t even think of themselves as evil, they constantly have to explain to everybody that this is the only way mankind can survive, thus rationalizing themselves into having the DUTY to exterminate arbitrary amounts of people.

Latimer Alder

From Stapel’s book

‘Nobody ever checked my work. They trusted me.… I did everything myself, and next to me was a big jar of cookies. No mother, no lock, not even a lid.… Every day, I would be working and there would be this big jar of cookies, filled with sweets, within reach, right next to me — with nobody even near. All I had to do was take it’

Report of Phil Jones testimony to Parliament
‘The most startling observation came when he was asked how often scientists reviewing his papers for probity before publication asked to see details of his raw data, methodology and computer codes. “They’ve never asked,” he said.’ *
And the biggest problem that allowed Enron to get away with stuff for so long is that the auditors never asked the hard questions…..if they asked any questions at all.
Why do we allow academics to (mostly) get away with standards of conduct that wouldn’t be acceptable as the treasurer of a small sports club? Are we so brainwashed by the laughable idea of ‘academic integrity’ that we can’t conceive of the idea that academia is awash with at least as many crooks, vagabonds and ne’erdowells as the rest of society…and in some fields seemingly a lot more?
Stapel’s story – as written in the NYT – has huge parallels with climatology. I urge you all to read it in full. I just hope Revkin has seen and understood it too.
* Fred Pearce: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2010/mar/01/phil-jones-commons-emails-inquiry

Niff

Lew Skannen says:
April 29, 2013 at 8:23 pm
It is very unfortunate but at least I can take heart that it could never happen in Australia. Definitely not in the School of Psychology at UWA. That is for sure.

Well, maybe not as much in future now he’s gone to UK. But hopefully the investigations continue.

Jimbo

What a coincidence! Seconds before I came to WUWT this morining I was thinking:

“CAGW…..what a con job”

Then what is the ‘first’ post I see? 🙂

Ian

As a budding Physicist years ago I was told, “when you need to see results cook the books”. Clearly the “mantra prevails”.

– OLD NEWS from September 2011, covered by NYT cos Strapel is plugging his new book
… Shame on the NYT and the other media which feeds the public a constructed reality instead of reality itself
– a quick Google finds Why is the New York Times publicising fraudster Stapel’s book?

Jimbo

Stapel

What the public didn’t realize, he said, was that academic science, too, was becoming a business. “There are scarce resources, you need grants, you need money, there is competition,” he said…

CAGW science reminds me of drug taking in cycling and other sports. Grand Prix anyone?
Now, the comment brought back President Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation. Aside from say space exploration, never could he have imagined that any science today would be funded by the federal government to the tune of eye popping billions each and every year and that’s not to mention state governments, overseas climate change spending and organizational grants to Calamatologists.

[My bold]
Eisenhower’s Farewell Address – January 17, 1961
“……Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite…..”
http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/ike.htm