Wash U psych researcher cited in ORI probe, faces multiple retractions
The Office of Research Integrity says Adam Savine, a former
post-doc graduate student in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, committed misconduct in work that tainted three papers and six abstracts he submitted to conferences.
One of Savine’s studies that drew some media attention involved Diederik Stapel-esque research showing which brain region lights up when people see money. He was quoted in this 2010 article on Medical News Today saying:
“We wanted to see what motivates us to pursue one goal in the world above all others,” Savine says. “You might think that these mechanisms would have been addressed a long time ago in psychology and neuroscience, but it’s not been until the advent of fMRI about 15-20 years ago that we’ve had the tools to address this question in humans, and any progress in this area has been very, very recent.”
Apparently, now we know. According to the notice, Savine engaged in misconduct in research funded by four grants:
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant R56 MH066078, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), NIH, grants F31 DA032152 and R21 DA027821, and National Institute on Aging (NIA), NIH, grant T32 AG00030.
ORI found that Savine had falsified data in the following three papers:
- Savine, A.C., & Braver, T.S. “Local and global effects of motivation on cognitive control.” Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 12(4):692-718, 2012 Dec. (not yet cited, according to Thomson Scientific)
- Savine, A.C., McDaniel, M.A., Shelton, J.T., Scullin, M.K. “A characterization of individual differences in prospective memory monitoring using the Complex Ongoing Serial Task.” J Exp Psychol Gen. 141(2):337-62, 2012 May (cited three times)
- Savine, A.C., & Braver, T.S. “Motivated cognitive control: Reward incentives modulate preparatory neural activity during task-switching.” J Neurosci. 30(31):10294-305, 2010 Aug 4 (
not yetcited 31 times)
He also falsified data in these six conference abstracts:
- Savine, A.C., & Braver, T.S. (November 2010) “The contextual and local effects of motivation on cognitive control.” Psychonomics Society, St. Louis, MO
- Savine, A.C., & Braver, T.S. (November 2010) “A model-based characterization of the individual differences in prospective memory monitoring.” Psychonomics Society, St. Louis, MO
- Savine, A.C., & Braver, T.S. (November 2010) “Motivated cognitive control: Reward incentives modulate preparatory neural activity during task-switching.” Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA
- Savine, A.C., & Braver, T.S. (June 2010) “Motivated cognitive control: Reward incentives modulate preparatory neural activity during task-switcing.” Motivation and Cognitive Control Conference, Oxford, England
- Savine, A.C., & Braver, T.S. (January 2010) “Neural correlates of the motivation/cognitive control interaction: Activation dynamics and Performance prediction during task-switching.” Genetic and Experiential Influences on Executive Function, Boulder, CO
- Savine, A.C., & Braver, T.S. (June 2009) “Incentive Induced Changes in Neural Patterns During Task-Switching.” Organization for Human Brain Mapping, San Francisco, CA
Here’s what Savine acknowledged doing:
- falsified data in Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2012 to show an unambiguous dissociation between local and global motivational effects. Specifically, Respondent exaggerated (1) the effect of incentive context on response times and error rates in Table 1 and Figures 1 and 3 for experiment 1 and (2) the effect of incentive cue timing on response times and error rates in Table 2 and in Figures 6, 9, and S2 for experiment 2.
- falsified data in J Exp Psychol Gen. 2012 to show that prospective memory is influenced by three dissociable underlying monitoring patterns (attentional focus, secondary memory retrieval, information thresholding), which are stable within individuals over time and are influenced by personality and cognitive differences. Specifically, Respondent modified the data to support the three category model and to show (1) that individuals fitting into each of the three categories exhibited differential patterns of prospective memory performance and ongoing task performance in Tables 1-3; Figures 5-8, and (2) that certain cognitive and personality differences were predictive of distinct monitoring approaches within the three categories in Figure 9.
- falsified data in J Neurosci. 2010 and mislabeled brain images to show that motivational incentives enhance task-switching performance and are associated with activation of reward-related brain regions, behavioral performance, and trial outcomes. Specifically, Respondent modified the data so that he could show a stronger relationship between brain activity and behavior in Table 2 and Figure 4 and used brain images that fit the data rather than the images that corresponded to the actual Talairach coordinates in Figure 3.
Unfortunately for one of Savine’s Wash U. colleagues and co-authors, Todd Braver, a 2013 paper of his in Frontiers in Cognition titled “Temporal dynamics of motivation-cognitive control interactions revealed by high-resolution pupillometry,” might suffer collateral damage. It cites two of the soon-to-be-retracted articles — which might necessitate a correction, or even a retraction.
Savine — whose name appears on the Neurotree website — has agreed to submit to a three-year supervisory period for any work involving funding from the Public Health Service. He spent some time after Wash U at the University of Michigan, in the lab of John Jonides, but left in the fall, according to the lab.
Savine won a 2011 travel award from the Society for Neuroscience, and gives tips on how to apply for that grant here. That might be advice best unheeded, much like grant consulting services from Michael Miller, another neuroscientist found to committed misconduct by the ORI.
Hat tip: Rolf Zwaan