November 28, 2011

The disgraced psychologist Diederik Stapel, whose findings people found so intriguing.

But they're only intriguing when you believe he really did a study producing the result.
According to [Tilburg University's] interim report, Stapel's typical modus operandi was to team up with a student or colleague to design a study to test one of the collaborator’s own hypotheses. He would then purport to carry out the study and process the data by himself or with an unknown assistant. He then provided the processed data file – which, in reality, was often entirely fabricated – to the collaborator for analysis.

One student who persistently requested access to the raw data was accused by the disgraced scholar of "calling his capacities and experience as a renowned professor into question." But collaborators typically regarded Stapel's processing as a "service," and the "close bonds" he often formed with them tended to minimize their suspicion. "The last thing that colleagues, staff and students would suspect is that, of all people, the department's scientific star, and faculty dean, would systematically betray that trust," the report says.
It's not enough that Stapel is disgraced. The collaborators are also to blame. And look at this effort to at explaining Stapel, from Stephen Reicher, a professor in the University of St. Andrews School of Psychology:
Stapel's "path to corruption" was partly a symptom of the "commodification" of the academy and the pressure to publish. "Publication becomes an end in itself. You don’t have to believe in what you found, you just have to get it out," [Reicher] said. "You become more Machiavellian in how you [do that]: it is a slippery slope."
It's nice that this psychologists have a hypothesis about the psychology of the corruption of psychologists. Maybe they could design a study to test it.

28 comments:

Expat(ish) said...

He should have gone into climate science.

-XC

traditionalguy said...

So Character counts even more than education because an educated thief can steal more than an uneducated thief.

MadisonMan said...

I am reminded of Jerry Sandusky when I read that. In both cases, a sham is perpetrated (allegedly, in at least one of the cases :) ) by a seemingly helpful man.

Then no one can believe it when the curtain is torn in two and the charlatan is revealed behind it.

DADvocate said...

Psychology is one of those fields where sociopathy fits quite nicely. You can use psycho-babble to twist events and motivation to rationalize anything.

Heart_Collector said...

The few people I have known to personally go on to become psychologists have been some of the most fucked up people I have ever known.

Humans are capable of so much, a degree dosnt trump a persons humanity.

Beware of jihad via medical malpractice.

Bob Ellison said...

Psychology is science?

MadisonMan said...

I love some of those studies, though.

Wine Glasses on a table improve Table Manners (doesn't help with my kid). Meat eaters are more antisocial than Vegetarians (probably 'cause the Vegetarians are lecturing them). Messy environments make people antisocial.

Curious George said...

But...but...but it's peer reviewed!

edutcher said...

Sounds like another one of those academics who writes pretentious goobledy-gook that gets sagacious nods from all the brahmins whose stuff is no different.

And, of course, he was outed by someone who actually took apart what was said and found no there there.

Kell Sir Prize!

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

Rush went off on this guy's fraud several weeks ago - focusing on his bogus study that meat eaters are anti-social. The disgraced professor probably felt Rush was throwing red meat to his anti-social listeners.

gregq said...

'One student who persistently requested access to the raw data was accused by the disgraced scholar of "calling his capacities and experience as a renowned professor into question."'

Have you read the Open letter to Phil Jones? It's amazing how similar Jones and Stapel sound.

Skipper said...

So what's the problem with an inherently fraudulant profession publishing fraudulant "research"? How could there even be accurate data?

Zach said...

To be fair to psychologists, all confidence scams look stupid from the outside. As an outsider, you're not the person the con man is trying to fool.

Also, the standards for coauthorship don't require an equal sharing of labor. In physics, the standard I've heard is that doing 10% of the work makes you a coauthor. In some large groups or collaborations, even more authors get listed. So it's not necessarily misconduct by the coauthors -- if you collaborated with someone to design a study, that would ordinarily be enough to be listed as a coauthor, even if the other person carried out the actual experiment.

The sneaky part of it all is that all those coauthors look like they're vouching for Stapel's work, even though in their own minds they're being listed for other contributions. Trusting people can be a tricky thing.

glenn said...

Or like Dad said "First you have to have honest people". And dishonesty apparently abounds in Academia. On the public tab.

cassandra lite said...

I think he can sell the whole thing as a double-blind study in corruption. The collaborators (good word) were the control group. Look: Power, pressure, and ambition corrupt. Absolutely. Q.E.D.

S said...

<< It's nice that this psychologists have a hypothesis about the psychology of the corruption of psychologists. Maybe they could design a study to test it. >>

I can get you some data in ten minutes.

Peer-review is like a Brita water filter: it helps with the final cleaning process, but you don't want to throw mystery liquid in the pitcher and drink whatever comes through the filter. If someone writes up an honest experiment and the methodology is questionable, peer-review should catch that. If alternative explanations for the data haven't been explored, peer-review should catch that. But peer-review (at least in finance and economics) is not like an audit; it's taken for granted that there's no flat-out lying going on.

gerry said...

I feel like I'm living in the Weimar Republic. Everything seems fraudulent.

When the euro finally goes, maybe a new cycle of the same-old will begin.

This is not a good feeling.

Fen said...

He then provided the processed data file – which, in reality, was often entirely fabricated – to the collaborator for analysis.

One student who persistently requested access to the raw data was accused by the disgraced scholar of "calling his capacities and experience as a renowned professor into question."


This thread needs a Climate "science" tag.

Shanna said...

This thread needs a Climate "science" tag.

Seconded.

sorepaw said...
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DADvocate said...

Sociopaths are not interested in being identified or in cooperating with investigators, so it's hard to get data—but I've seen no evidence that they are any more likely to end up in psychology than in another field.

Sociopaths may not be interested in being found out, of course not, but they can be found in high places in lots of fields.

I never said sociopaths were more likely to go into psychology, just that the psychology profession is a nice fit for a sociopath as there are certain aspects of the psychological belief system and practices that enable a sociopath quite well. The bit about "calling his capacities and experience" into question is a good example. "I'm the expert, you're not." No morality needed.

sorepaw said...
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ken in sc said...

When I was working on a doctorate—I didn't finish—several of my professors let it be known that they expected to be listed as co-authors to anything I published.

MadisonMan said...

@ken, I have always felt guilty that I did not put my Major Professor's name on my post-thesis publication. But there was another person who clearly needed to be on it (it was his model), and I didn't want et al. So I left him off.

It's always, always bugged me.

sorepaw said...
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Martin L. Shoemaker said...

"It's nice that this psychologists have a hypothesis about the psychology of the corruption of psychologists. Maybe they could design a study to test it."

I actually suggested something like this to my nephew, who currently is a psych undergrad. I suggested a research paper on the psychology of people who would do what Stapel did, but more important on the psychology of people who were so easily fooled into letting him get away with it.

He wasn't interested. He said this was all easily explained by common human behavior: greed, pride, insecurity, etc. He was saddened by it, but he saw it as no different from corruption in any other field.

I also think it's telling that it never once came up in any of his psych classes. Weeks after it was announced, he had never heard about it until I told him. My guess is the profs avoided an uncomfortable subject.