Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Co-author of now-retracted paper about video games apparently demoted to “lecturer” by uni

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Jodi Whitaker, via University of Arizona

A researcher who co-authored a paper about violent video games that was retracted earlier this year appears to have changed positions, according to her website.

After her PhD was revoked by The Ohio State in August, Jodi Whitaker’s listed position at the University of Arizona changed from “assistant professor” to “lecturer.” The page also has removed the information about her PhD, and lists her highest degree as a master’s degree in social psychology from the University of Michigan.

Whitaker has also removed the retracted paper — which includes the title “Boom, Headshot!” — from her list of publications.

We’ve contacted Whitaker and the University of Arizona about the changes to Whitaker’s profile, and her status at the institution, and will update if they respond. Previously, a spokesperson told us he was unable to comment on personnel matters.

A co-author responds

Whitaker helped write the retracted paper — which claimed that first-person shooter video games improved marksmanship — while a student at Ohio State. The paper, published online in 2012, was retracted earlier this year, two years after a university committee learned of irregularities in the data from two outside researchers. The retraction process was long, and controversial: Ohio State cleared Whitaker’s PhD supervisor, Brad Bushman, of misconduct, but took issue with the paper’s critics — Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University and Malte Elson, a behavioral psychology postdoc at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. But Bushman agreed to the retraction.

In August, we asked Bushman if he took some responsibility for what happened to Whitaker, given that he was her supervisor. He told us:

I think all authors on an academic paper share responsibility for what they publish.  As second author for the study, that would include me.  Although I was not aware of the inappropriate data manipulation in the study, I regret the problems the retraction has caused, and I’m dedicated to ensuring the integrity of future research in my lab.

Before the retraction, Markey and Elson released a timeline of their communications with the authors, journal, and Ohio State over the years, including some information that was apparently confidential. Last month, a spokesperson for Ohio State told us why the university gave them confidential information:

At the time, the practice was to disclose equal information to both respondents and known complainants.  Both parties were bound by duties of confidentiality in the university’s policy, and participation was founded in that.  However, after Markey and Elson publicly released the investigatory documents, we reviewed the Policy and changed our practice so that we no longer share reports with complainants.

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Written by Alison McCook

October 3rd, 2017 at 11:05 am

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