Friday, November 4, 2011



Diederik Stapel has been a psychology professor at major universities for the last ten years. He published well over 100 research papers in prestigious journals such as Science. Some of his research papers have been highly cited. He trained nearly 20 Ph.D. students.

He was recently fired when it was finally determined that he was making up all of his research data, including the data that he was providing to students. He was making up research assistants and experiments. [..] Managers, colleagues, journals, collaborators and competitors failed to openly report him. It took outsiders (students) to report him. The best journals, and correspondingly, the best scientists were repeatedly fooled by Stapel. Judging by his numerous citations, people built on his work. [..]

The real scientists, the peers of the researchers, don’t report fraud. Questioning someone’s results is a dangerous adventure. Some point out to me that this does not apply to fields such as Computer Science. Really? Have you ever tried to reproduce the experimental results from popular papers? Quite often, it is very difficult or even impossible. It does not help that Computer Science researchers almost never post their software or data. [..]

But what is critical is that traditional peer review does not protect against fraud. It is merely a check that the work appears superficially correct and interesting.