Would you buy a used car from this man? Probably not, but he thinks you might like to hire him as your chauffeur and brilliant conversationalist. I’m not kidding: fraudster Diederik Stapel is now offering what he calls ‘mind rides’ (see ad below video). He is prepared “to listen to what you have to say or talk to you about what fascinates, surprises or angers you”. He is already giving pedagogical talks on a train. This from Retraction Watch:
Diederik Stapel, the social psychologist who has now retracted 54 papers, recently spoke as part of the TEDx Braintrain, which took place on a trip from Maastricht to Amsterdam. Among other things, he says he lost his moral compass, but that it’s back.
Always on the move, from A to B, hurried, no time for reflection, for distance, for perspective. […] Diederik offers himself as your driver and conversation partner who won’t just get you from A to B, but who would also like to add meaning and disruption to your travel time. He will […] listen to what you have to say or talk to you about what fascinates, surprises or angers you. [Slightly paraphrased for brevity—Branko]
I don’t think I’d pay to have a Stapel “disruption” added to my travel time, would you? He sounds so much as he does in “Ontsporing”[i],
[i]The following is from a review of his Ontsporing [“derailed”].
“Ontsporing provides the first glimpses of how, why, and where Stapel began. It details the first small steps that led to Stapel’s deception and highlights the fine line between research fact and fraud:
‘I was alone in my fancy office at University of Groningen.… I opened the file that contained research data I had entered and changed an unexpected 2 into a 4.… I looked at the door. It was closed.… I looked at the matrix with data and clicked my mouse to execute the relevant statistical analyses. When I saw the new results, the world had returned to being logical’. (p. 145)
…In Ontsporing Stapel explains the etiology of his fraud by likening it to addiction, although he admits that it is probably a combination of different factors, including: ‘The need to score, ambition, laziness, nihilism, want of power, status anxiety, desire for solutions, unity, pressure to publish, arrogance, emotional detachment, loneliness, disappointment, ADD, addiction to answers’ (p. 226). He also describes various unsuccessful attempts at quitting his ‘drug.’
Given that Stapel’s deception went undetected for many years, one may expect a cunning scheme of data-fabrication. However, the book reveals that Stapel’s trickery was remarkably unsophisticated, even clumsy:
‘I preferred to do it at home, late in the evening, when everyone was asleep. I made myself some tea, put my computer on the table, took my notes from my bag, and used my fountain pen to write down a neat list of research projects and effects I had to produce.… Subsequently I began to enter my own data, row for row, column for column…3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 4, 5, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 5, 4, 3, 3, 2. When I was finished, I would do the first analyses. Often, these would not immediately produce the right results. Back to the matrix and alter data. 4, 6, 7, 5, 4, 7, 8, 2, 4, 4, 6, 5, 6, 7, 8, 5, 4. Just as long until all analyses worked out as planned.'(p. 167)
To any crime there is not just means and motive, but also opportunity. … In his characterization of the latter — the academic environment of social psychology — Stapel insists on the almost complete absence of scientific control structures. This made it just too hard for him to resist temptation:
‘Nobody ever checked my work. They trusted me.… I did everything myself, and next to me was a big jar of cookies. No mother, no lock, not even a lid.… Every day, I would be working and there would be this big jar of cookies, filled with sweets, within reach, right next to me — with nobody even near. All I had to do was take it.’ (p. 164)
[ii] In this connection, here’s a brand new blog by Uri Simonsohn, Joe Simmons, and Leif Nelson: Data Colada: http://datacolada.org.
[iii]Some previous related posts on this blog:
JULY 3, 2013: Phil/Stat/Law: 50 Shades of Gray between Error & Fraud
JUNE 22, 2013: What Do These Share in Common: M&Ms, Limbo-stick, Ovulation, Dale Carnegie?: Sat Night Potpourri
JUNE 8, 2013: Richard Gill Integrity or Fraud…or Just Questionable Research Practices?
JUNE 1, 2013: Some Statistical Dirty Laundry
OCTOBER 25, 2011: Thinking of Eating Meat Causes Antisocial Behavior (Rejected Posts)