Diederik Stapel

Diederik Stapel

Diederik Alexander Stapel (born in Oegstgeest, 19 October 1966) is a former professor of social psychology at Tilburg University and before that at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.[1] In 2011 Tilburg University suspended Stapel, pending further investigation, for admittedly fabricating and manipulating data for his research publications. This scientific misconduct lasted for years and affected at least 30 publications.



Stapel obtained an M.A. cum laude in psychology and communications from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in 1991.[2] In 1997 he obtained his Ph.D. cum laude in social psychology from the UvA.[2] He became professor at the University of Groningen in 2000[2] and moved to the University of Tilburg in 2006, where he founded TiBER, the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research.[2] In September 2010, Stapel became dean of the social and behavioral sciences faculty.[2]

Stapel received the "Career Trajectory Award" from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology in 2009, which has since been retracted.[3] He has returned his Ph.D. title to the University of Amsterdam noting that his "behavior of the past years are inconsistent with the duties associated with the doctorate".[4]

Scientific misconduct

In September 2011, Tilburg University suspended Stapel from his duties, because he was suspected of using faked data for his research publications. The university announced an investigation of his work.[5][6]

On October 31, 2011, the committee headed by Willem ("Pim") Levelt, entrusted with investigating the fraud published an interim report regarding Stapel's activities at the three Dutch universities where he had worked. The report concluded that Stapel made up data for at least 30 publications.[7] His general method towards the end of his career was to develop a complete experiment at the level of theory, hypotheses, methods, stimuli, questionnaires, and even participants' rewards- and then pretend that he would run the experiments at schools only he had access to. Instead of doing so, he would make up the data and send these to colleagues for further analysis. The report also stated that earlier in his career, going back at least to 2004, he appears to have manipulated data rather than faking them (p. 9). In all cases he acted alone and the report did not find any indication that coauthors, PhD students, or others were aware or could reasonably have been aware.[8] On page 6-7, the interim report names 19 Ph.D. theses prepared with data delivered by Stapel. Of those, 7 have been cleared. There are various degrees of suspicion about the remaining 12. The report advised that the Ph.D. degrees of the students involved should not be retracted.[7]

The interim report stated that it was not possible to determine whether Stapel fabricated or manipulated data for his 1997 dissertation at the University of Amsterdam, because the data had been destroyed. The university announced that it would investigate whether it would be possible to retract Stapel's Ph.D. because of exceptionally unworthy scientific behavior,[9][10][11] but as Stapel returned his degree himself (see above), this issue has become moot.

An extensive report will investigate all of Stapel's 130 articles and 24 book chapters. It is currently not known how long this investigation will take, but fears are that it may take a long time.[12] The University of Tilburg will only reveal which publications are based on faked or manipulated data after the extensive report is complete.[12]

The research result, obtained by Stapel and co-workers Roos Vonk (Radboud University) and Marcel Zeelenberg (Tilburg University), that meat eaters are more selfish than vegetarians, which was widely published in Dutch media,[13] is suspected to be based on faked data.[14] The research result had not yet been published in a scientific journal, only a press bulletin was released.[15]

The interim report stated that Stapel had caused severe damage to young people at the beginning of their careers.[7] The University of Tilburg announced that it would pursue criminal prosecution of Stapel.[16]

Reaction by Stapel

Responding to the interim report, Stapel stated:

I failed as a scientist. I adapted research data and fabricated research. Not once, but several times, not for a short period, but over a longer period of time. I realize that I shocked and angered my colleagues, because of my behavior. I put my field, social psychology in a bad light. I am ashamed of it and I deeply regret it.

... I think it is important to emphasize that I never informed my colleagues of my inappropriate behavior. I offer my colleagues, my PhD students, and the complete academic community my sincere apologies. I am aware of the suffering and sorrow that I caused to them.

... I did not withstand the pressure to score, to publish, the pressure to get better in time. I wanted too much, too fast. In a system where there are few checks and balances, where people work alone, I took the wrong turn. I want to emphasize that the mistakes that I made were not born out of selfish ends.[17]

Selected publications


  1. ^ "Diederik Stapel succeeds Theo Verhallen as Dean of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences". Tilburg University. 7 July 2010. http://uvtapp.uvt.nl/fsw/spits.npc.shownewslettern?v_newsletter_id=9850426248424191. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Diederik Stapel succeeds Theo Verhallen as Dean of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences". Tilburg University. 8 July 2010. http://uvtapp.uvt.nl/fsw/spits.NPC.ShowArticleN?v_article_id=7425424320095932&v_newsletter_id=8823896128229022&v_language=gb. Retrieved 05 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Career Trajectory Award Recipients". Society of Experimental Social Psychology. http://www.sesp.org/trajectory.htm. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  4. ^ Redactie. "Stapel doet vrijwillig afstand van doctorstitel - Binnenland - VK". Volkskrant.nl. http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2686/Binnenland/article/detail/3026242/2011/11/10/Stapel-doet-vrijwillig-afstand-van-doctorstitel.dhtml. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  5. ^ "Prof. Diederik Stapel suspended" (Press release). Tilburg University. 7 September 2011. http://uvtapp.uvt.nl/fsw/spits.npc.ShowPressReleaseCM?v_id=4082238588785510. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Enserink, Martin (7 September 2011). "Dutch university sacks social psychologist over faked data". Science. http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/09/dutch-university-sacks-social.html. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c "interim report by Pim Levelt, 31 October 2011" (PDF). http://www.tilburguniversity.edu/nl/nieuws-en-agenda/commissie-levelt/interim-rapport.pdf. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  8. ^ interim report by Pim Levelt, 31 October 2011, page 6
  9. ^ "Commissie onderzoekt Amsterdamse werk Stapel - Nieuws en Agenda - Universiteit van Amsterdam" (in (Dutch)). Uva.nl. 2011-09-23. http://www.uva.nl/actueel/nieuws/nieuws.cfm/8BF58B4E-702F-4206-993E1F3423C0EB66. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  10. ^ interim report by Pim Levelt, 31 October 2011, page 20
  11. ^ "UvA onderzoekt mogelijkheid intrekken doctorsgraad Stapel - Nieuws en Agenda - Universiteit van Amsterdam" (in (Dutch)). Uva.nl. 2011-10-31. http://www.uva.nl/actueel/nieuws/nieuws.cfm/97DC3500-9DF4-447A-AE5827BA7E77F4E2. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  12. ^ a b "Omroep Brabant: ANP Nieuws: Volledig onderzoek Stapel duurt nog jaren". Omroepbrabant.nl. http://www.omroepbrabant.nl/?anp/311011212592/Volledig+onderzoek+Stapel+duurt+nog+jaren.aspx. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  13. ^ "Meat eaters are selfish and less social". DutchDailyNews.com. 30 August 2011. http://www.dutchdailynews.com/meat-eaters-selfish-less-social/. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  14. ^ "Meat eaters absolved, professor in the dock". DutchNews.nl. 8 September 2011. http://www.dutchnews.nl/features/2011/09/meat_eaters_absolved_professor.php. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  15. ^ Vanheste, Thomas (13 September 2011). "Onder psychologen" (in Dutch). Vrij Nederland. http://www.vn.nl/Archief/Wetenschap/Artikel-Wetenschapmilieu/Onder-psychologen.htm. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  16. ^ Nature. "Report finds massive fraud at Dutch universities : Nature News". Nature.com. doi:10.1126/science.1201068. http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111101/full/479015a.html. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  17. ^ "Stapel betuigt openlijk 'diepe spijt'". Brabants Dagblad. October 31, 2011. Translated from Dutch: "Ik heb gefaald als wetenschapper, als onderzoeker. Ik heb onderzoeksgegevens aangepast en onderzoeken gefingeerd. Niet een keer, maar meerdere keren, en niet even, maar gedurende een langere tijd. Ik realiseer me dat ik door dit gedrag mijn directe collega's in verbijstering en boosheid heb achtergelaten en mijn vakgebied, de sociale psychologie, in een kwaad daglicht heb gesteld. Ik schaam me daarvoor en ik heb daar grote spijt van.
    ...Ik hecht er aan te benadrukken dat ik hen nooit op de hoogte heb gebracht van mijn oneigenlijk gedrag. Ik bied mijn collega's, mijn promovendi en de gehele academische gemeenschap mijn oprechte excuses aan. Ik ben me bewust van het leed en het verdriet dat ik bij hen heb veroorzaakt.
    ... Ik heb de druk te scoren, te publiceren, de druk om steeds beter te moeten zijn, niet het hoofd geboden. Ik wilde te veel te snel. In een systeem waar er weinig controle is, waar mensen veelal alleen werken, ben ik verkeerd afgeslagen. Ik hecht eraan te benadrukken dat de fouten die ik heb gemaakt, niet zijn voortgekomen uit eigenbelang."
  18. ^ Kreulen, Edwin (1 November 2011). "Diederik Stapel verzon list na list en duldde geen enkele tegenspraak". Trouw.nl. English translation: "Stapel knew at that moment exactly what he expected, which could be inferred yesterday from the words of Pim Levelt. "The science article is based on fake data", was his verdict, just like at least 29 other publications by Stapel, and probably more." Dutch original: "Stapel wist op dat moment precies wat hij verwachtte, viel gisteren af te leiden uit de woorden van onderzoeker Pim Levelt. "Het Science-artikel berust op gefabriceerde gegevens", was zijn oordeel, net als in ieder geval 29 andere publicaties van Stapel, en vermoedelijk nog meer."

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