Derailment: Faking Science: A true story of academic fraud, by Diederik Stapel (translated into English)

images-16Diederik Stapel’s book, “Ontsporing” has been translated into English, with some modifications. From what I’ve read, it’s interesting in a bizarre, fraudster-porn sort of way.

Faking Science: A true story of academic fraud

Diederik Stapel
Translated by Nicholas J.L. Brown

Nicholas J. L. Brown (
Strasbourg, France
December 14, 2014



Foreword to the Dutch edition

I’ve spun off, lost my way, crashed and burned; whatever you want to call it. It’s not much fun. I was doing fine, but then I became impatient, overambitious, reckless. I wanted to go faster and better and higher and smarter, all the time. I thought it would help if I just took this one tiny little shortcut, but then I found myself more and more often in completely the wrong lane, and in the end I wasn’t even on the road at all. I left the road where I should have gone straight on, and made my own, spectacular, destructive, fatal accident. I’ve ruined my life, but that’s not the worst of it. My recklessness left a multiple pile-up in its wake, which caught up almost everyone important to me: my wife and children, my parents and siblings, colleagues, students, my doctoral candidates, the university, psychology, science, all involved, all hurt or damaged to some degree or other. That’s the worst part, and it’s something I’m going to have to learn to live with for the rest of my life, along with the shame and guilt. I’ve got more regrets than hairs on my head, and an infinite amount of time to think about them.

This book is an attempt to reconstruct my spin-off and the inevitable crash into a very solid wall that followed it. Hopefully this reconstruction will allow for a better understanding of what happened, for me but also for others who want to know. What did I do? How did it start? And why did it get so stupidly out of control? And, above all: who am I, really? Or perhaps, if I’m lucky: who was I, really?

So, this book is not intended to be a witness statement or a charge sheet. It’s not a research report and it’s not a comment on other research reports. This is my own, personal, selective, biased story about my downfall. It’s nothing more than a series of images, sketches, thoughts, and anecdotes, which together form an attempt to understand myself (and maybe find myself again?). It started more or less by chance, as a bit of occupational therapy. I’d been fired, was stuck at home, hated myself, been feeling depressed for months. Writing kept me busy, plus—as I knew from some piece of psychological research I’d read somewhere one time—writing about a bad experience helps your recovery from that experience. So I started writing my thoughts and feelings in a small black notebook.

If you care to read it, it’s available, free, at:


6/1/13: Some statistical dirty laundry
6/8/13: Richard Gill: Integrity or fraud or just questionable research practices.
6/22/13: What do these share in common m&ms, limbo-stick, ovulation, Dale Carnegie? Sat night potpourri
7/3/13: philstatlaw: 50 shades of gray between error and fraud
9/18/13: How to hire a fraudster chauffeur
4/01/13: Flawed science and stapel priming for a backlash
9/27/14: Should a fiction factory peepshow be barred from a festival on truth and reality? Diederik Stapel says no, (rejected post)
10/5/14: Diederik Stapel hired to teach social philosophy because students got tired of success stories or something, rejected-post




Categories: Statistical fraudbusting, Statistics | Tags:

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4 thoughts on “Derailment: Faking Science: A true story of academic fraud, by Diederik Stapel (translated into English)

  1. Sleepy

    It’s a weird book, that alternates between being highly entertaining and highly annoying. Stapel takes a lot of tangents, and within his stories he sometimes misapplies psychological concepts (possibly on purpose?). The details of his falsification and fabrication are morbidly interesting. It’s hard to believe there was that little oversight of his research!

    As an aside – the title “Derailment” symbolizes his crashing off-course, but I find it funny that his writing style is sort reminiscent of the thought disorder that goes by the same name:

    I wonder if that was on purpose. I don’t know if “ontsporing” gets applied the same way in Dutch as derailment does in English, so it might be a false connection.

    • Sleepy:I’d never heard of derailment as that kind of thought disorder, speaking in tangents. Interesting. I would guess Stapel had in mind going off the rails, as in the picture at the bottom of my post.
      I never got back to reading the rest of the book.

    • PJTV

      In 2012 there was a book by a Dutch journalist ( who brought out a book ‘Derailed Science’. It lists fraud in science with many cases obviously researched. He also discusses Diederik Stapel. I guess Stapel’s book is a confirmation and he deliberately borrowed from Van Kolfschooten’s title.

      • Sleepy

        That makes a lot of sense. Thank you for the information!

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