Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

First retraction appears for embattled food researcher Brian Wansink

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Brian Wansink

Earlier this month, a high-profile food researcher who’s recently come under fire announced a journal was retracting one of his papers for duplication. Today, a retraction appeared — for a 2002 study which contained “major overlap,” according to the journal.

The Journal of Sensory Studies has retracted a paper by Cornell’s Brian Wansink about how labeling of foods can affect how they taste, after determining it borrowed too heavily from a 2000 paper. Wansink is the first author on both studies.

Here’s more from the retraction notice:

The above article from Journal of Sensory Studies, published online on 11 May 2007 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) and in Volume 17, pp. 483–491, has been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor in Chief, Edgar Chambers, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed due to major overlap with a previously published article: Wansink B, Park SB, Sonka S, Morganosky M (2000) How soy labeling influences preference and taste. The International Food and Agribusiness Management Review 3: 85–94. doi: 10.1016/S1096-7508(00)00031-8.

The 2002 paper has been cited 62 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

It has been flagged by a critic of Wansink’s work, Nick Brown, one of the co-authors of “Statistical heartburn: An attempt to digest four pizza publications from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab,” who highlighted the sections he believed were similar on his blog last month.

The Food & Brand Lab at Cornell University website also lists the article as “being retracted.”

Wansink’s troubles began late last year, when he wrote a blog post he intended as a lesson in student productivity, about a PhD student who took on every research opportunity he gave her. The researcher submitted five papers within six months of arriving to his lab, including four from one dataset. After readers read the blog — and the papers — they raised concerns about whether the papers had fallen victim to p-hacking and other statistical mistakes.

After Wansink initially said he had asked a researcher in his own lab to review the papers, he shifted gears and engaged an outside firm. Last week, Cornell announced it had not found evidence of misconduct in the four papers initially questioned by critics.

Since the initial outcry, however, researchers have raised concerns about other papers by Wansink, alleging instances of self-plagiarism. In a statement released earlier this month, Wansink said he had contacted the journals who had published those papers, and been told one was being retracted.

Update 4/11/17 10:22 a.m. eastern: We heard from Brown yesterday, who told us:

I’m glad that the many hours that my colleagues and I have put into our detailed investigations appear to be starting to result in corrections to the scientific record.

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Written by Alison McCook

April 10th, 2017 at 2:50 pm

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