Marketing psychologist quits over ‘massaged’ data

Clever statistical sleuthing by an anonymous fraud hunter in the United States appears to have led to the downfall of a marketing researcher at Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Netherlands, writes Martin Enserink for Science.

Last week, the university announced in a statement that Belgian-born social psychologist Dirk Smeesters, who specialised in consumer behaviour, resigned effective on 21 June after an investigative panel found problems in his studies and concluded it had "no confidence in [their] scientific integrity". The university has also asked for the retraction of two of Smeesters' papers, one published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in January and the other in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology last year.

Smeesters, a professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, could not be reached for comment. But the university panel's report, provided by a university spokesperson, says he conceded to "massaging" the data in some papers to "strengthen" outcomes, while defending his actions as common in his field. The case seems certain to further undermine confidence in social psychology, and comes at a time when the Dutch academic world is still recovering from the affair involving social psychologist Diederik Stapel who, according to investigative panels, made up data for dozens of papers.
Full report on the Science site