Data fraud is not particular to graduate students

In the wake of the Michael LaCour (a political science graduate student at UCLA) data fabrication scandal that erupted last week (evidence, article, hashtag) I’ve heard several professor friends worry that their own students could have faked data, since they didn’t have procedures in place to catch fraud. Advisor-student relationships are often family-like, such that your advisor’s advisor would often half-jokingly be referred to as your grand-advisor. Advisors, like parents, range widely in the trust they place in their ‘children.’ However, data fraud is not a particular penchant of graduate students.

Take the case of Diederik Staples, a social psychologist in the Netherlands who faked studies for many years, including the data for studies on which his students based their dissertations. The more powerful supervisor is much more likely to harm the graduate student than the other way around. While I am absolutely in favor of common-sense transparent procedures to protect data integrity, like what Thomas Leper describes, I hope this incident doesn’t inspire paranoia on the part of graduate advisors, or anyone else. I suspect it is quite rare that people are willing to risk their career and reputation forever by fabricating data.

This makes such cases quite interesting, and my web browsing history visualization from last Friday shows.


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