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

September 21, 2018

Resigned Professor Wansink Clarifies University Investigation

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Freshly resigned Prof. Brian Wansink issued a statement on Friday morning following the conclusion of Cornell’s academic misconduct investigation, saying he “appreciated [his] time at the university,” but wanted to offer context for the University’s statement.

“There was no fraud, no intentional misreporting, no plagiarism, or no misappropriation,” he said, writing from Iowa. Wansink is currently visiting his hometown to attend his mother’s funeral.

Yesterday, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced that a committee investigating had found instances of “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.” The investigation lasted over a year.

In an email to The Sun, Wansink said the “misreporting of research data” was a reference to a description of incorrect age groups in two of his papers, but that following experiments conducted by others on this topic showed consistent results with his conclusions, regardless of age.

Wansink also clarified the committee’s conclusion of “problematic statistical techniques,” writing, “In the thousands and thousands of numbers I’ve published, there have been some typos, transposition errors, and some statistical mistakes.” According to Wansink, these mistakes do not change the conclusions of these papers, “with only one debatable exception.” It is unclear which paper Wansink was referring to.

Another conclusion of the committee was that Wansink failed “to properly document and preserve research results.”

“This is true,” Wansink conceded, saying that he and his coauthors could have better documented and saved the results of their research. “Still…if we could turn back the clock, we still wouldn’t have been able to keep every hard copy survey we have ever collected.”

In a previous email to The Sun, Wansink said that he and his coauthors did not keep “the original pencil and paper surveys and coding sheets that were used in these papers.”

In response to the last conclusion of the investigative committee — that Wansink had granted inappropriate authorship — Wansink said that he is “generous” with granting authorship because he believes research is a “collaborative effort,” but acknowledged that some individuals did not deserve authorship by other standards.

According to the provost’s statement, Wansink will no longer serve as a professor, or be allowed to teach or continue research. However, 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.”

“I am proud of my research, the impact it has had on the health of many millions of people, and I am proud of my coauthors across the world,” Wansink said.