Brian Wansink, the much-beleaguered food marketing researcher at Cornell whose work has fallen under intense scrutiny, has just had six more papers retracted, all from the JAMA family of journals.
[See an update on this post; Wansink has resigned, and Cornell has found that he “committed academic misconduct.”]
JAMA warned readers about the six studies in April, by subjecting them all to expressions of concern, and followed up with print notices in May. Howard Bauchner, editor in chief of JAMA and the JAMA Network journals, told us at the time,
Given the large number of retractions of articles with Dr. Wansink as an author there is uncertainty that the results of his publications are valid.
Today, JAMA announced it was retracting the six articles:
On May 8, 2018, notices of Expression of Concern were published regarding articles published in JAMA and the JAMA Network journals that included Brian Wansink, PhD, as author. At that time, Cornell University was contacted and was requested to conduct an independent evaluation of the articles to determine whether the results are valid.
Cornell University has notified JAMA that based on its investigation they are unable to provide assurances regarding the scientific validity of the 6 studies. Their response states: “We regret that, because we do not have access to the original data, we cannot assure you that the results of the studies are valid.” Therefore, the 6 articles reporting the results of these studies that were published in JAMA, JAMA Internal Medicine, and JAMA Pediatrics are hereby retracted.
Wansink tells Retraction Watch that he was not aware the papers were being retracted:
All of the reanalyses that were verified by Cornell came out identical or nearly so to what had been reported. The only thing we couldn’t find the original survey instruments (some which were over 18 years old). We had the electronic versions of the data, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to keep hard copies of surveys years after they are collected.
Here are the six papers:
- Wansink B, Tal A, Shimizu M. First foods most: after 18-hour fast, people drawn to starches first and vegetables last. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(12):961-963.
- Tal A, Wansink B. Fattening fasting: hungry grocery shoppers buy more calories, not more food. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(12):1146-1148.
- Tal A, Zuckerman S, Wansink B. Watch what you eat: action-related television content increases food intake. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(11):1842-1843.
- Wansink B, Cheney MM. Super Bowls: serving bowl size and food consumption. JAMA. 2005;293(14):1727-1728. doi:10.1001/jama.293.14.1727
- Wansink B, Payne C, Werle C. Consequences of belonging to the “clean plate club”. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(10):994-995.
- Hanks AS, Just DR, Wansink B. Preordering school lunch encourages better food choices by children. JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(7):673-674.
I’ve very proud of all of these papers, and I’m confident they will be replicated by other groups.
In a saga that began in November 2016 with a blog post by Wansink about a graduate student, and grew to involve allegations of p-hacking and sloppy statistics, Wansink has now had 13 papers retracted — one of them, twice — as well as at least 15 papers corrected.
Update, 1720 UTC, 9/19/18: Cornell’s senior director of media relations and news John Carberry tells Retraction Watch:
“Cornell University has conducted a comprehensive review of allegations of academic misconduct raised in relation to the work of Professor Wansink. We will issue a statement about its outcome on Friday.”
Update, 2130 UTC, 9/19/18: Was Wansink notified of the retractions? JAMA tells us:
Dr. Wansink’s institution was notified at the time the articles were retracted. Our request for independent validation of the study results was with appropriate officials at Cornell University.
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