Hey! A few days ago I received an email from the Cornell University Media Relations Office. As I reported in this space, I responded as follows:
Dear Cornell University Media Relations Office:
Thank you for pointing me to these two statements. Unfortunately I fear that you are minimizing the problem.
You write, “while numerous instances of inappropriate data handling and statistical analysis in four published papers were alleged, such errors did not constitute scientific misconduct (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/research_integrity/research_misconduct.htm). However, given the number of errors cited and their repeated nature, we established a process in which Professor Wansink would engage external statistical experts to validate his review and reanalysis of the papers and attendant published errata. . . . Since the original critique of Professor Wansink’s articles, additional instances of self-duplication have come to light. Professor Wansink has acknowledged the repeated use of identical language and in some cases dual publication of materials.”
But there are many, many more problems in Wansink’s published work, beyond those 4 initially-noticed papers and beyond self-duplication.
Your NIH link above defines research misconduct as “fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, and does not include honest error or differences of opinion. . .” and defines falsification as “Manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.”
This phrase, “changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record,” is an apt description of much of Wansink’s work, going far beyond those four particular papers that got the ball rolling, and far beyond duplication of materials. For a thorough review, see this recent post by Tim van der Zee, who points to 37 papers by Wansink, many of which have serious data problems: http://www.timvanderzee.com/the-wansink-dossier-an-overview/
And all this doesn’t even get to criticism of Wansink having openly employed a hypotheses-after-results-are-known methodology which leaves his statistics meaningless, even setting aside data errors.
There’s also Wansink’s statement which refers to “the great work of the Food and Brand Lab,” which is an odd phrase to use to describe a group that has published papers with hundreds of errors and major massive data inconsistencies that represent, at worst, fraud, and, at best, some of the sloppiest empirical work—published or unpublished—that I have ever seen. In either case, I consider this pattern of errors to represent research misconduct.
I understand that it’s natural to think that nothing can every be proven, Rashomon and all that. But in this case the evidence for research misconduct is all out in the open, in dozens of published papers.
I have no personal stake in this matter and I have no plans to file any sort of formal complaint. But as a scientist, this bothers me: Wansink’s misconduct, his continuing attempt to minimize it, and this occurring at a major university.
Let me emphasize at this point that the Cornell University Media Relations Office has no obligation to respond to me. They’re already pretty busy, what with all the Fox News crews coming on campus, not to mention the various career-capping studies that happen to come through. Just cos the Cornell University Media Relations Office sent me an email, this implies no obligation on their part to reply to my response.
Anyway, that all said, I thought you might be interested in what the Cornell University Media Relations Office had to say.
So, below, here is their response, in its entirety: