“[I]t took a long time for the scientific community to realize that he was simply making things up”

In a world increasingly haunted by fake news, email scams and trolls on the internet deliberately emotionalizing debate and making unfounded attacks, trust is perhaps more endangered than ever.

That sounds like the breathless text of a movie trailer, but it’s how the editors of Ethnologia Europaea announce the retractions of seven more papers by Mart Bax, the Dutch anthropologist whose misconduct includes not only making up data but making up papers — at least 61 of them — as well. Bax is now up to nine retractions.

The journal, which has published an article titled “On scholarly misconduct and fraud, and what we can learn from it,” by Peter Jan Margry about Bax’s checkered career at Amsterdam Free University (Margry helped to out the misconduct), notes the sweep and success of the fraud: 

An internationally renowned scholar, Bax specialized in the analysis of religious regimes based on fieldwork in Ireland, the Netherlands and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 2013, a university commission initiated by the VU concluded that throughout his whole research career, Bax invented field sites, source material, informants and research problems (see Margry in this issue). Since he claimed to be protecting informants by using pseudonyms and inventing geographical names for his field sites, it took a long time for the scientific community to realize that he was simply making things up.

The retracted articles are: 

  • Vol. 18 (1988): Return to Mission Status? Religious Reality and Priestly Perception in Catholic Dutch Brabant, 73–79.
  • Vol. 20 (1990): The Seers of Medjugorje: Professionalization and Management Problems in a Yugoslav Pilgrimage Center, 166–176.
  • Vol. 22 (1992): The Saints of Gomila: Ritual and Violence in a Yugoslav Peasant Community, 17–33.
  • Vol. 22 (1992): How the Mountain Became Sacred: The Politics of Sacralization in a Former Yugoslav Community, 115–127.
  • Vol. 26 (1996): “Killing the Dead” in Surmanci: About the Local Sources of “the War” in Bosnia, 17–27.
  • Vol. 27 (1997): Civilization and Decivilization in Bosnia: A Case-Study from a Mountain Community in Hercegovina, 163–177.
  • Vol. 30 (2000): Holy Mary and Medjugorje’s Rocketeers: The Local Logic of an Ethnic Cleansing Process in Bosnia, 45–59.

Bax’s first two retractions appeared in 2014, the year after a report of the university’s investigation was released.

Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at team@retractionwatch.com.

2 thoughts on ““[I]t took a long time for the scientific community to realize that he was simply making things up””

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.