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Ethics

The widespread misuse and misrepresentation of statistical information often gives the field a bad name. Some say that “numbers don’t lie,” but the people who use numbers to support their claims often do.

A recent investigation of famous social psychologist, Diederik Stapel, has led to the retraction of his articles from some of the world’s top journals including Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Social Psychology, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, British Journal of Social Psychology, and the magazine Science . Diederik Stapel is a former professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Over the past two years, an extensive investigation involving three universities where Stapel has worked concluded that the psychologist is guilty of fraud on a colossal scale. Falsified data taints over 55 papers he authored and 10 Ph.D. dissertations that he supervised.

Stapel did not deny that his deceit was driven by ambition. But it was more complicated than that, he told me. He insisted that he loved social psychology but had been frustrated by the messiness of experimental data, which rarely led to clear conclusions. His lifelong obsession with elegance and order, he said, led him to concoct sexy results that journals found attractive. “It was a quest for aesthetics, for beauty—instead of the truth,” he said. He described his behavior as an addiction that drove him to carry out acts of increasingly daring fraud, like a junkie seeking a bigger and better high. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “The Mind of a Con Man,” Magazine, New York Times, April 26, 2013. Available online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/diederik-stapels-audacious-academic-fraud.html?src=dayp&_r=2&(accessed May 1, 2013).

The committee investigating Stapel concluded that he is guilty of several practices including:

  • creating datasets, which largely confirmed the prior expectations,
  • altering data in existing datasets,
  • changing measuring instruments without reporting the change, and
  • misrepresenting the number of experimental subjects.

Clearly, it is never acceptable to falsify data the way this researcher did. Sometimes, however, violations of ethics are not as easy to spot.

Researchers have a responsibility to verify that proper methods are being followed. The report describing the investigation of Stapel’s fraud states that, “statistical flaws frequently revealed a lack of familiarity with elementary statistics.” “Flawed Science: The Fraudulent Research Practices of Social Psychologist Diederik Stapel,” Tillburg University, November 28, 2012, http://www.tilburguniversity.edu/upload/064a10cd-bce5-4385-b9ff-05b840caeae6_120695_Rapp_nov_2012_UK_web.pdf (accessed May 1, 2013). Many of Stapel’s co-authors should have spotted irregularities in his data. Unfortunately, they did not know very much about statistical analysis, and they simply trusted that he was collecting and reporting data properly.

Many types of statistical fraud are difficult to spot. Some researchers simply stop collecting data once they have just enough to prove what they had hoped to prove. They don’t want to take the chance that a more extensive study would complicate their lives by producing data contradicting their hypothesis.

Questions & Answers

Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
Damian
yes that's correct
Professor
I think
Professor
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Brian Reply
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Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
How we are making nano material?
LITNING Reply
what is a peer
LITNING Reply
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LITNING Reply
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LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
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Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
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what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
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if virus is killing to make ARTIFICIAL DNA OF GRAPHENE FOR KILLED THE VIRUS .THIS IS OUR ASSUMPTION
Anam
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Anam
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
Hafiz
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
brayan
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Damian
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
Renato
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
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Kyle
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Kyle
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Joe
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research.net
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Source:  OpenStax, Statistics i - math1020 - red river college - version 2015 revision a - draft 2015-10-24. OpenStax CNX. Oct 24, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11891/1.8
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