Cornell University has followed up its two audits by opening yet another investigation into Brian Wansink, a former Cornell professor and food marketing researcher, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced in a letter on Monday.
This “Phase II” investigation requires Wansink — who resigned in September following the conclusion of an academic misconduct investigation — to submit all past research data to the University since the start of his tenure in 2005. Kotlikoff wrote in the letter that this inquiry seeks to find whether the research misconducts by the founder of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab affected federally funded research projects. The lab had received funding from the National Institue of Health and the Department of Agriculture.
The provost’s announcement follows an “open letter” sent to Kotlikoff on Oct. 31 signed by 46 academics worldwide, The Sun previously reported. The letter, co-authored by Nicholas Brown, a researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, called on the University for transparency after the two Wansink investigations, and implored that Cornell release the full results.
After the announcement of Wansink’s resignation in September, the disgraced former researcher published a statement saying that the cited mistakes did not change the outcome of his papers, “with only one debatable exception.” It is unclear which paper was the alluded exception.
The signatories, however, accused Wansink of not accepting responsibility for his errors and of characterizing his mistakes as “trivial”.
The letter requested transparency, saying that Wansink’s response was “incompatible” with the University’s investigation’s findings.
“I find it hard to imagine that an Ivy League school would require an endowed-chair professor, whose picture used to be on the front page of the business school’s web site, to resign on that basis,” Brown previously told The Sun.
In response, Kotlikoff said that the policy standards of the inquiry into Wansink’s work “establish confidentiality as a guidepost to ensure protections for complainants, respondents, and witnesses in research misconduct investigations.” According to Kotlikoff, these policy standards would, if fully released, “unfairly” identify individuals who contributed to the investigation.
Kotlikoff also doubled down on the findings of the investigative committee, saying that it discovered “a number of instances of research misconduct that also violated applicable federal regulations.”
“Professor Wansink’s research departed from accepted practices of his research community and that the departure [sic.] resulted from reckless conduct of research,” Kotlikoff wrote.
“The practices identified included data falsification, a failure to assure data accuracy and integrity, inappropriate attribution of authorship of research publications, inappropriate research methods, failure to obtain necessary research approvals, and dual publication or submission of research findings,” he continued.
The provost did not provide a definite timeline of the investigation, but said that a summary would be published at its conclusion.