After 18 months — and recommended retractions — no movement in psychology case

The University of Rennes-2

“Dissatisfied.” That’s how Nick Brown and James Heathers describe their reaction to the progress — or lack thereof — in the case of Nicholas Guéguen, a psychology researcher whose work the two data sleuths have questioned.

Brown and Heathers first wrote about the case in 2017. In a new blog post, they write that the science integrity office at the University of Rennes-2, where Guéguen works, pulled punches in its investigation of its faculty member and in two reports it issued last year about the case. (Brown and Heathers, who has called himself a “data thug,” had hoped to make available a preliminary report about the case last year but said the university discouraged them from doing so — a stance that, if true, we wouldn’t find surprising given many institutions prefer to sit on reports of such investigations.)

Brown and Heathers also take aim at the Archives of Sexual Behavior and Color Research and Application, which should by now have retracted two of Guéguen papers based on the university’s recommendation — but have yet to do so:

[O]ur patience has now run out. The two articles that Dr. Guéguen was required to retract are still untouched on the respective journals’ websites, and our e-mails to the editors of those journals asking if they have received a request to retract the articles have gone unanswered (i.e., we haven’t even been told to mind our own business) after several weeks and a reminder. No other journal has yet taken any action in the form of a retraction, correction, or expression of concern.

Brown and Heathers note that two other journals, which they don’t identify, are “actively investigating multiple articles” by Guéguen but have yet to take any action on the work. A pair, or even a small handful of retractions, they write, would be meager fruit in the case:  

All of this leaves us dissatisfied. … Dr. Guéguen has 336 articles on ResearchGate published between 1999 and 2017. We have read approximately 40 of these articles, and we have concerns around the plausibility of the methods and results in a very large proportion of those.

Were this affair to be considered closed after the retraction of just two articles—not including one that seems to have been published without attribution from the work of the author’s own students—it seems to us that this would leave a substantial amount of serious inconsistencies unresolved.

Guéguen did not respond to a request for comment from Retraction Watch.

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One thought on “After 18 months — and recommended retractions — no movement in psychology case”

  1. 336 articles from 1999 to 2017, oh boy ….
    That’s less than 3 weeks per article, year in year out.
    Assuming that ‘authorship’ means authorship, then clearly an ‘article’ cannot be what my colleagues and I call a paper; but what is it, then? Maybe just a symptom of a system that has gone insane? And if so, does it really matter anymore if the ‘authors’ make up ‘results’ as they go along? Isn’t it much worse that people have come to believe that a scientist can be the ‘author’ of 17 ‘publications’ per year for many years, unless ‘authorship’ means nothing and any arbitrary statement counts as a ‘publication’?

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