Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
As it turns out, the prominent Dutch social psychologist who conducted those media-friendly experiments faked data for most of his career, in dozens of separate experiments going back to the mid-1990s.
The Associated Press reports that Diederik Stapel was fired from his university job after his fraudulent body of work was dismantled. His former employer, Tilburg University, said Thursday that it will press charges against him for forgery of documents and fraud.
He was unmasked when his own doctoral students called shenanigans. According to the investigation’s interim report, released this week, Stapel often refused to allow his students to participate in the experimental process. They were instead relegated to analyzing and writing about the data Stapel said he collected himself.
The AP explains that Stapel apparently coasted on his reputation – even co-authors of his papers would trust his "elaborate" setups for experiments that never happened. Siegwart Lindenberg, the co-author of Stapel’s April paper on stereotyping and messy environments told PRI’s The World that he had "no reason to be suspicious in any way about what he presented to me as the results of the experiments he conducted."
The World spoke to Lindenberg before the revelations, back when they did a story on the study’s findings. At the time, Lindenberg explained the experiment that may not have taken place:
Researchers questioned people and watched their behavior at a Dutch train station, during and after a strike by janitors that left the station a mess.
"In the messy condition, people stereotyped a lot more and they actually and they sat down much further from the person who was actually sitting there, when it was a different race," explained Lindenberg.
Science published that report back in April, and like many of Stapel’s experiments, it received a lot of press attention. According to the AP, they’ve since flagged the article with a note to readers.
At the request of the investigating committee, Stapel provided journal articles containing fabricated data. The articles date back to 1994.
The disgraced psychologist has apologized. In a public statement, Stapel writes: "I realize that via this behavior I have left my direct colleagues stunned and angry and put my field, social psychology, in a poor light."