The jokes write themselves.
A Harvard behavioral scientist, who has extensively studied honest behavior, has been accused of fabricating study results — and yes, the jokes write themselves.
Harvard Business School behavioral scientist Francesca Gino has been placed on academic leave, the New York Times reports, after colleagues found evidence that she falsified data in a 2012 study.
First noticed by a researcher-run blog and later reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the accusations stem from a 2012 paper in which Gino and two other behavioral scientists concluded that people who sign honesty pledges before filling out forms are more likely to be truthful than those who sign them after completing said forms.
The study in question was published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and featured data from an insurance company that looked into whether clients accurately reported mileage and other key figures.
"There is very strong evidence that the data were fabricated," researchers at the blog DataColada wrote in their then-anonymous 2021 post about the study.
A month after the blog post was published, the journal retracted the offending study.
Though the paper itself suggests that its data points were directly submitted by consumers, the bloggers said that an Excel file lead them to believe someone connected to the study had tampered with its results.
As Wharton behavioral scientist Maurice Schweitzer told the NYT, this debacle has created "reverberations in the academic community" because Gino has "so many collaborators, so many articles, who is really a leading scholar in the field."
Other researchers in the behavioral science field told the newspaper that they were shocked by the accusations against Gino, though they ceded that the type of survey-based methodology she uses can inherently produce questionable results.
As with all data-falsification scandals, there's certainly a lot more going on behind the scenes than what has been printed — but given that this specific fiasco is based on research about honesty, it's especially ironic.
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