I refer here to Dr. Diederik Stapel, a Dutch social psychologist who admitted had published papers based on fabricated data for more than a decade. In hindsight it is easy to spot the problems: obviously, data collection for the experiments was not done correctly and the experiments were clearly designed to make a big media impact. Now everybody is wondering “how this could have happened and at this proportion”, said a social psychologist at the University of Amsterdam.
Dr. Stapel is well-known in his field, with a long list of papers published in prestigious journals and also in popular newspapers like The New York Times. His studies attracted public attention. While it is difficult to understand the effects of particle collision in our daily life, papers in social psychology have a broad impact as it deals with situations we go through almost every day. And some studies can even affect public policies. In one of his studies, Dr. Stapel showed that untidy and cluttered environment promotes stereotyping and make people more discriminating. After reading this, I feel like organizing my desk! Many of his papers showed very impressive correlation we all can relate to. Thus his popularity.
This case will have deep consequences. Even though the investigating commission concluded that Dr. Stapel acted alone, it could affect 21 PhD dissertations that were written with doubtful data. I can imagine the damage it will inflict on the field of social psychology too. And in science in general.
The damage is done and we need to learn from it. Next time we can talk about what we can do to avoid blatant cases of scientific fraud like this from happening.