Cornell review finds academic misconduct by food researcher

Laverne Higgins
Сентября 22, 2018

In this December 6, 2016 file photo, Brian Wansink speaks during an interview in the produce section of a supermarket in Ithaca, N.Y. On Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, the prominent Cornell professor announced heÂs retiring after a medical journal retracted six of his food research papers.

On Thursday, he tendered his resignation after 14 years with the university, effective June 30, 2019.

When questions started arising, Dr Wansink insisted that he could provide evidence for the results, and Cornell said there had been no evidence of misconduct.

Wansink's easily digestible studies at Cornell's Food and Brand lab, which he heads, linked environmental cues to food consumption.

The professor played a role in the development of new dietary guidelines in 2010 that remade the food pyramid, and his work has been cited by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Today show, among others.

Cornell University was urged to conduct an independent review of the research. They appeared in journals published by the JAMA Network, which include the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The university revealed the findings of its investigation Thursday.

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FILE - In this December 6, 2016 file photo, Brian Wansink speaks during an interview in the produce section of a supermarket in Ithaca, N.Y. On Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, the prominent food researcher is defending his work a day after Cornell University said he engaged in academic misconduct and was removed from all teaching and research positions.

A prominent food researcher is defending his work a day after Cornell University said he engaged in academic misconduct and was removed from all teaching and research positions. He has been removed from all teaching and research.

Cornell said that Wansink will not teach or participate in research in his remaining time at the university, but will cooperate in an ongoing review of his work. The latest retractions bring Wansink's, according to a database compiled by watchdog publication Retraction Watch.

"This was quite a surprise", Wansink wrote in an email Thursday. Moreover, many researchers see the dubious approach as fueling a crisis in social sciences in which findings from key studies-like Wansink's-are not reproducible by other researchers, calling into question their original validity. Some were filled out in paper and pencil more than two decades ago, he said. In response, Wansink said he was proud of the papers and was confident they'll be replicated by other groups. One of his seven previously retracted articles was ultimately replaced - and then retracted again.

But, Wansink inadvertently sank his own fame by noting that he encouraged his graduate students to go on statistical fishing trips, pushing them to net unintended conclusions from otherwise null nutrition experiment results. Topping Retraction Watch's "leaderboard" are scientists with 183, 96 and 58 retractions.

Reports have pointed to "a surge in withdrawn papers" over the years, underscoring what experts say are "weaknesses in the system for handling them", according to a 2011 paper in Nature. The withdrawal follows revelations of emails suggesting misconduct, including regular data-massing, in February along with five retractions and 13 corrections of papers in 2017. Researchers have been caught falsifying data and manipulating images, but they may also reanalyze data in subtler ways that will produce positive findings.

Thus, JAMA editors retracted the six articles.

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