Jens Förster, a high-profile social psychologist, has agreed to retract multiple papers following an institutional investigation — but has also fought to keep some papers intact. Recently, one publisher agreed with his appeal, and announced it would not retract two of his papers, despite the recommendation of his former employer.
Many voices contributed to the discussion about these two papers — in November, 2016, the University of Amsterdam announced it was rejecting the appeal by another co-author on both papers, Nira Liberman, based at Tel Aviv University in Israel. The following month, Tel Aviv University announced that it believed the articles should not be retracted, based on its own internal review.
The APA reviewed the various recommendations, according to last month’s announcement:
Last month, we brought you the story of two retractions by Yale’s Laurie Santos because the team discovered errors in the way the first author had coded the data. That first author, Neha Mahajan, took full responsibility for the coding problems, according to the retraction notices, and a university investigation cleared her of any “intentional, knowing, reckless, or grossly negligent action.”
But a few of our readers noted that the papers refer to a second coder on some of the experiments, and have questioned whether that’s compatible with Mahajan being solely responsible for the errors.
In the midst of the holiday season, it’s a pleasure to be able to share the story of a scientist doing the right thing at significant professional cost — especially a researcher in psychology, a field that has been battered lately by scandal.
It turns out we missed two more recent retractions from Diederik Stapel. They were nestled in the table of contents of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that contained four retractions we covered last week.
The social psychology community, already rocked last year by the Diederik Stapel scandal, now has another set of allegations to dissect. Dirk Smeesters, a professor of consumer behavior and society at the Rotterdam School of Management, part of Erasmus University, has resigned amid serious questions about his work.
According to an Erasmus press release, a scientific integrity committee found that the results in two of Smeesters’ papers were statistically highly unlikely. Smeesters could not produce the raw data behind the findings, and told the committee that he cherry-picked the data to produce a statistically significant result. Those two papers are being retracted, and the university accepted Smeesters’ resignation on June 21.
The release also takes pains to say that the university has no reason to doubt the work of his co-authors. You can read the complete report in Dutch, with Smeesters’ co-authors’ names blacked out, in an NRC Handelsblad story.