Thursday, September 20, 2018

Save Your Data (and Your Job) to Prove Your Research Results

An investigation into flawed research brought down a once-noted Cornell University professor who now has had thirteen papers retracted ("This Ivy League Food Scientist Was a Media Darling. He Just Submitted His Resignation, the School Says." The Washington Post, September 20, 2018). One of the problems is that Brian Wansink's results cannot be verified because data in its original form was not kept. Another related article from Vox stated that his lab employees cherry-picked favorable results to support hypotheses.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do you think the professor's reputation has been permanently harmed by these accusations? Why or why not?
  2. Vox suggests that professors are under pressure to publish results that support their hypotheses instead of discussing why research didn't work or other questions of significance. If keeping your job depended on only finding statistically significant results in your research would you be tempted to alter results to fit your hypotheses? Why or why not?
  3. It was also mentioned that "Wansink had a knack for producing studies that were catnip for the media." Do you think the professor wanted more publicity for his work, so he succumbed to shoddy research practices to get anything and everything published to feed his ego? Why or why not?

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