Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another Case of Fraud in University Research

“ ...  he was immediately fired by the university, admitted to his lengthy fraud, and handed back his PhD degree.”

On the Strategy Profs blogsite (here) Prof. Freek Vermeulen (associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School) wrote about the case of Diederik Stapel.  Stapel earned a cum laude master’s (1991) and a cum laude doctorate (1997) from University of Amsterdam.  He taught at the University of Groningen (2000-2006) and then the University of Tilburg, where he launched the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research.  He was made dean of the social and behavioral sciences faculty in 2010.  (Wikipedia here.)   Then, it all fell apart.

In Vermeulen’s words:  "For years – so we know now – Diederik Stapel made up all his data. He would carefully read literature, design all the studies (with his various co-authors), set up the experiments, print out all the questionnaires, and then, instead of actually doing the experiments and distributing the questionnaires, made it all up. Just like that."

In my response on that blog site, I pointed out that loss of your degree is the appropriate remedy for academic fraud. 

One of the highlights of my studies at Eastern Michigan University was the class in “Ethics in Physics” which I took for graduate credit as a cognate elective.  The class was first created over 25 years ago by Prof. Marshall Thomsen, and has continued to top the list of such offerings by all schools.  My professor was Patrick Koehn.  (Prof. Beth Kubitskey made this her master’s thesis and also has taught the course.)  For my term paper (Google Docs here), I set academic fraud in a criminological context because very little research has been done by criminologists on this.  I also found a deep precedent for allowing the university to deal with its own problems.  The word “universitas” refers not to the collection of colleges or their classes, but to the charter which grants the institution legal standing to deal with its own members.
Academic sanctions also avoid the useless reprisals, retaliations, and retributions of the governmental courts and prisons.  

“In responding to and resolving the criminal behavior of employees, organizations routinely choose options other than criminal prosecution, for example, suspension without pay, transfer, job reassignment, job redesign (eliminating some job duties), civil restitution, and dismissal...
While on the surface, it appears that organizations opt for less severe sanctions than would be imposed by the criminal justice system, in reality, the organizational sanctions may have greater impact...  In addition, the private systems of criminal justice are not always subject to principles of exclusionary evidence, fairness, and defendant rights which characterize the public criminal justice systems. The level of position, the amount of power, and socio-economic standing of the employee in the company may greatly influence the formality and type of company sanctions.  In general, private justice systems are characterized by informal negotiations and outcomes, and nonuniform standards and procedures among organizations and crime types.”
(Hallcrest Report cited in Introduction to Private Security, Hess and Wrobleski, West Publishing, St.Paul, 1982, 1988. The Hallcrest Report I and II, by William C. Cunningham and Todd H. Taylor, et al., Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston, 1985 and 1990.)
Criminologists point to the failure of “general deterrence.” It is famous that cutpurses worked crowds gathered to watch the hanging of a cutpurse.  However, white collar crime in general and academic fraud specifically meet all the criteria for free will and rational choice.  It is planfully competent.  Academic fraud cannot be blamed on your parents, your neighborhood, or your lack of educational opportunities.  It is not a genetic disorder or a vitamin deficiency. 

Diederik Stapel gave back his doctorate.  Jan Hendrik Schön had his rescinded by the University of Konstanz.  For defrauding the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Eric Poehlman was sentenced to a year and a day in prison; but he kept his degrees.  While prison is pain and is intended to be so, a year of incarceration is nothing more than a harsh sabbatical.  Disgrace is bad enough, but the loss of your degree – having to give it back or having it taken from you – is and should be a sword over your head.

Earlier posts on this blog:
Who Guards the Guardians? links to my other blog CSI:Flint – Who Guards the Guardians? which I created after presenting to two middle school classes for "Super Science Friday" at the University of Michigan Flint campus, May 5, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. The fraud research universities in the world is raising day by day . We need to be very careful while selecting the universities . It takes loss of degree and life.

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