It is the epitome irony.
BuzzFeed News reported that a 2012 study by Dan Ariely, renowned behavioral scientist, about honesty had far-reaching consequences on how governments and businesses approach fraud prevention. It was based on falsified data.
Three academics called the results into doubt found that Arielys 2012 study was built on a fraudulent dataset. Data Colada posted their findings on their blog Data Colada. This is a disturbing reminder that scientific integrity can never be guaranteed.
Together with many of the original researchers, the team is now requesting that the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal that published the research first, retract it.
According to a 2012 study, people who signed an honest declaration before filling out a form regarding auto insurance were more likely than those who did not. BuzzFeed reports that at least one insurance company has adopted this method. Corporate executives have even been trained in the use of the technique.
However, something was not right with the numbers, according to the scientists who conducted the investigation.
However, Ariely is retaining his innocence.
BuzzFeed said that it's tempting to believe that I was involved in creating the fraudulent data. It is tempting to jump to this conclusion. But, I didn't.
He said that if I had known the data was fraudulent, I wouldn't have posted it.
Arielys account contained contradictory answers, which is troubling. BuzzFeed reported that Ariely claimed that the insurance company that supplied the allegedly false data no longer has access to the original records.
This study was first questioned over a year ago. Many of the original 2012 authors attempted to reproduce the results eight years after publication. They found unusual inconsistencies and raised alarm bells.
The Scientific American published an opinion piece titled "When Were Wrong, Scientists Have a Responsibility to Say So" last March.
Data Colada is an international group of data sleuths consisting of three professors and lecturers from business schools. They then looked over the data and discovered something more concerning.
They discovered several clues that the data was faked, including the use of unusual fonts in Excel spreadsheets and the distribution of data points.
This is not how real data looks, and it's impossible to imagine a benign explanation, according to the Data Colada blog post.
It concluded that there is strong evidence that these data were faked.
BuzzFeed reports that several of the original authors have begun to distance themselves from the work.
It remains to be seen if they have learned their lesson.
READ MORE: A famous Honesty researcher is retracing a study over fake data [BuzzFeed News]
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