Faking the Data to Fame and Fortune: Caveat Emptor of Evidenced Based Research

Year: 2019

Author: English, Fenwick

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Faking the data is an age old problem in social science research. It is alleged that even Gregor Mendel, the founder of the science of genetics, faked his data when reporting his experiments with peas in the 19th century (Starbird, 2016).

There is much talk today on evidence based research serving as the true fount for improving professional practice. This presentation will highlight three cases of what was thought at the time to be solid evidenced based research but which eventually proved to be fraudulent.

Fraudulent Example 1-Sir Cyril Burt's definitive study of genetic heritability of IQ of separated twins ""conclusively"" showed that IQ was more important than environment. Later when his statistical calculations were checked they revealed that all his correlation coefficients were the same to three decimal places. Great doubt was cast about their reliability. Later they were described as outright falsified, including with co-authors who never existed.

Fraudulent Example 2-The second study anchored the concept of ""management style"" (Lewin, Lippitt & White, 1939). In this seminal research the experimenters created small groups of 10-11 year old boys and subjected them to six weeks of autocratic and democratic leaders. In mid-experiment the conditions were substantially altered and never reported in subsequent research journal articles.

Fraudulent Example 3-The third example concerns a book which sold over 3 million copies. In Search of Excellenceby Peters and Waterman (1982) purported to reveal the secrets of the best performing companies in America. Later, Peters revealed, ""...we faked the data"" (Peters, 2018, p. 4).

Unfortunately the temptation to cheat and fake research data has grown exponentially in recent times (Staffwriters, 2012). The presentation will conclude by illustrating some signs that may point to the presence of faked data in reporting research results.


Lewin, K., Lippitt, R. & White, R.L. (1939). Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created ""social climates."" The Journal of Social Psychology Bulletin,(10) 271-299.

Peters, T. (2018, July 19). Tom Peters' true confessions. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/44077/tom-peters-true-confessions [https://www.fastcompany.com/44077/tom-peters-true-confessions].

Peters, T. & Waterman, R. (1982). In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best Run Companies.New York: Harper and Row.

Starbird, M. (2016), December 14). ""Did famous genetic scientist Gregor Mendel fake his data?"" Retrieved from https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/gregor-mendel-fake-data [https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/gregor-mendel-fake-data]

Staffwriters (2012). The 10 greatest cases of fraud in university research. Retrieved from https://onlineuniversities.com/blog/2012/02/the-10-greatest-cases=-of-fraud-in-university-research