A few days ago, we were telling you about a seemingly fake study on changing people’s opinions on gay marriage. Michael LaCour, a very promising grad student from UCLA apparently forged data and lied about how he got it, and the study which had been published in Science, one of the largest journals in the world, was retracted. Now, while the situation is still uncertain, LaCour seems to admit his lies.
Science has motivated its decision to retract the study:
“In addition to these known problems, independent researchers have noted certain statistical irregularities in the responses,” Science said. “LaCour has not produced the original survey data from which someone else could independently confirm the validity of the reported findings.”
LaCour’s lawyer confirmed two false statements in the published study: firstly, that the participants were given money to participate, and secondly, that funding was provided by well-known non-profits. When confronted, LaCour refused to hand over the raw data, claiming that it had been deleted.
The study reported that some people’s views on same-sex marriage could be changed with a simple conversation, but when other researchers tried to duplicate the results, things didn’t add up. The more they dug, the more LaCour’s article seemed dubious; he initially claimed that he gave financial incentives to participants, and then said he actually offered a tablet as a raffle prize to motivate them – something which again, didn’t work when others tried it.
The reproducibility of results lies at the very base of scientific publishing,