Did Diederik Stapel tip his pitches in a paper about a plagiarism scandal?
Diederik Stapel might. Last week we reported that Stapel, an internationally recognized social psychologist from The Netherlands, had been accused of fabricating his data. An alert Retraction Watch reader has pointed us to a 1999 paper by Stapel with the impossibly ironic title: “Framed and misfortuned: identity salience and the whiff of scandal.”
In the article, which appeared in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Stapel and two colleagues reported the results of survey they’d conducted of Dutch psychologists in the wake of a major plagiarism scandal involving an unidentified Dutch clinical psychologist (“we decided to use neither the name of the person who was accused of plagiarism nor the university to which he was affiliated,” they wrote).
Put briefly, the researchers claimed to have found (rather unsurprisingly) that how psychologists identified themselves professionally dictated how strongly they were affected personally by the scandal. Money quote:
Whether social psychologists view an article about a plagiarist clinical psychologist as relevant or irrelevant to the self may thus be determined by whether their social identity is narrowly defined (‘social psychologists’), so as to exclude the plagiarist, or broadly define (‘psychologists’) to include the plagiarist.
Stapel’s group also showed that psychologists from the accused’s own university felt the shame of his alleged misdeeds more than those from other institutions.
Now, we have no information about the validity of the paper. To our knowledge, no list of Stapel’s tainted publications has been released. But imagine what, well, a psychologist might make of his choice of subject matter?
Stapel’s co-author on the 1999 paper, Russell Spears, has been editor of the journal since 2009.
The case reminds of Jatinder Ahluwalia, a scandal-plagued researcher in the UK who decided to study plagiarism. It’s also has a whiff of John Orr, the California arson investigator who went to prison for being a firebug. Orr, as it happened, had written pulpy fiction about a fire investigator who set fires. Go figure.