Old Boys Network: 1; Open Science: 0.

[Excerpts taken from the article “The Stewart Retractions: A Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis”, by Justin Pickett, published in Econ Journal Watch]
“This study analyzes the recent retraction of five articles from three sociology journals—Social Problems, Criminology, and Law & Society Review.”
“The only coauthor on all five retracted articles was Dr. Eric Stewart. He was the data holder and analyst for each article. I coauthored one of the retracted articles…”
“I organize my analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data into three sections: (1) what happened in the articles, (2) what happened among the coauthors, and (3) what happened at the journals. Everything—data, code, emails, text messages, Excel files, drafts, and university documents—needed to verify my claims is provided online.”
What happened in the five articles
— “Consistently incorrect means and standard deviations”
— “Non-uniform terminal-digit distributions”
— “Unverifiable surveys”
— “Identical statistics after changes in…everything else”
— “Inexplicable sample sizes and statistics”
— “Unreported, implausible county clusters”
What happened among the coauthors
“The coauthors of the five retracted articles include two past editors of Criminology, the flagship journal of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), as well as three ASC Fellows and two ASC vice presidents.”
“Two coauthors, Brian Johnson and Eric Baumer, have written articles about the importance of research ethics (e.g., “What Scholars Should Know about ‘Self-Plagiarism’” (Lauritsen et al. 2019); “Salami-Slicing, Peek-a-Boo, and LPUS: Addressing the Problem of Piecemeal Publication” (Gartner et al. 2012)).”
“To my knowledge, none of the coauthors have spoken publicly about what happened in the retracted articles, except to insist in the retraction notices that the irregularities resulted from “coding mistakes” and “transcription errors” (Law & Society Review 2020; Criminology 2020a; b), and to defend the accuracy of the retracted findings (Law & Society Review 2020).”
“Scientific fraud occurs all too frequently—approximately 1 in 50 scientists admit to fabricating or falsifying data (Fanelli 2009)—and I believe it is the most likely explanation for the data irregularities in the five retracted articles…The retraction notices say honest error, not fraud, is the explanation. Fortunately, if that is true, Dr. Stewart could easily prove it: recreate the original sample (N = 1,184) that produces the findings in Johnson et al. (2011) and then publicly explain how he did it.”
“…many authors are reluctant to share data publicly, and sometimes there are legitimate privacy concerns or externally imposed restrictions. Sharing data with coauthors, however, should be uncontroversial and feasible.”
“Yet without institutional support, coauthors may feel uncomfortable requesting data. For example, once irregularities were identified in their articles, Dr. Stewart’s coauthors were reluctant to press him for the data, probably because of concerns related to friendship and loyalty.”
What happened at the journals
“None of the editors followed COPE’s guidelines when alerted to the irregularities in Dr. Stewart’s articles. One editor seemingly tried to coordinate a collective response of ignoring the allegations, even though she recognized their potential seriousness…At Criminology, what seems to have driven how the co-editors responded was sympathy for some of the authors and a low opinion of critics.”
“Connections between the co-editors and authors are likely to blame; Dr. Johnson, the lead author of one article, was a co-editor, and Dr. Stewart, the lead author of the other, was to become a co-editor.”
Conclusion and recommendations
“The Stewart scandal took place over five months, and it required considerable time and effort from the editors involved. The editors corresponded extensively with each other and with other parties…the Criminology co-editors wrote multiple public statements about the steps they were taking to address the problems. Why did they not simply ask Dr. Stewart for his data?”
To read the article, click here.
NOTE FROM TRN: The excerpts above do not do justice to the article. The article should be read!

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