Brian Wansink, who resigned yesterday, clarified the University's investigation to the Sun.

September 20, 2018

Cornell Prof. Brian Wansink Resigns After Academic Misconduct Investigation

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Prof. Brian Wansink has tendered his resignation following the conclusion of an investigation of misconduct that was conducted over more than a year, according to a statement from Provost Michael Kotlikoff. Wansink will not be permitted to teach or research at the University, and will retire at the end of the academic year.

A faculty committee concluded the investigation, and found that “Professor Wansink committed academic misconduct in his research and scholarship, including misreporting of research data, problematic statistical techniques, failure to properly document and preserve research results, and inappropriate authorship.”

Wansink came under public scrutiny in 2016, and has faced a cascade of corrections and retractions; six retractions were issued yesterday by the Journal of the American Medical Association added to a total of 13 retractions, and even more formal corrections.

Dr. Collin Payne, a co-author of many of Wansink’s papers, also stopped working as a professor this year. In January, according to Buzzfeed News, Payne was no longer employed by New Mexico State University, after working there for almost 10 years.

One individual in the Food and Brand Lab office said that Wansink had not come in to his Warren Hall office on Thursday, but did not comment further. Adam Brumberg, who works two doors down from Dr. Wansink’s office, declined to comment.

In an email to The Sun on Wednesday evening, Wansink called the wave of retractions a “surprise,” and said that “from what my coauthors and I believed, the independent analyses of our data sets confirmed all of our published findings.”

Wansink could not be immediately reached for comment after the University’s announcement.

According to Kotlikoff, for the duration of the academic year, Wansink “will be obligated to spend his time cooperating with the university in its ongoing review of his prior research.”

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, JAMA network said that their decision to retract the Wansink papers were based on the University’s inability to assure the validity of the studies.

Wansink called the recent retractions “unjust,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Wansink told The Sun that the studies couldn’t be reproduced from scratch because “there was no scratch.”
“What [my coauthors and I] did not keep over the past 25 years are the original pencil and paper surveys and coding sheets that were used in these papers,” Wansink wrote in an email to The Sun, saying that after combining the data in spreadsheets, they “tossed the pencil and paper versions.”

The University first opened an investigation into Wansink’s work in 2017, and concluded at that time there were “instances of inappropriate data handling and statistical analysis,” but that there wasn’t “scientific misconduct,” John Carberry, a University spokesman, said in 2017, The Sun previously reported.

In the statement issued Thursday afternoon, the provost reaffirmed the University’s standards of academic integrity.

“We regret this situation which has been painful to the university community,” said Kotlikoff. “Cornell University remains committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and we are reviewing our research policies to ensure we can meet this commitment.”