A Note from Brian Wansink on Research

Updated March 7, 2017

“I’ve recently received a few inquiries about the work now underway at the Food and Brand Lab to re-examine a small set of studies from 2014 and 2015. As noted in my earlier statement below, we take the questions raised about this work very seriously and we are undergoing internal and independent reviews of the studies as well as a review of standard practices at the Food and Brand Lab to see if anything needs to be updated. If changes need to be made, we’ll make them; and we plan to share the de-identified data, surveys and scripts as well so our colleagues everywhere can conduct their own reviews. This substantial effort should be concluded in the next few weeks, and I look forward to sharing our findings.

“Since this review work began in mid-February, a few new claims about my research have been made that are not quite as substantial, and can be responded to much more quickly. Distilled, I have been accused of reusing portions of my own work in later papers on the same or related topics. The observation is, of course, true; in one instance key paragraphs from a journal article were intentionally re-emphasized in related works five times over 25 years; in another a review article that intentionally summarizes a body of my work includes pieces of earlier articles; in yet another a master’s thesis was intentionally expanded upon through a second study which offered more data that affirmed its findings with the same language, more participants and the same results.

“In every instance, I reprised portions of my earlier work to underscore or expand on its conclusions, and to continue to advance this field of research pioneered by the Food and Brand Lab that is relied upon by people around the world to lead healthier and happier lives.”

February 17, 2017

"Recent questions have arisen regarding statistical methods which I utilize in my research. I, along with my colleagues at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, take these questions very seriously. We are currently conducting a full review of studies in question, preparing comprehensive data which will be shared and establishing new standards for future operations at the lab which will include how we respond to requests for research information. Over the next few months, I will focus on the efforts outlined below and give full attention to this important matter. Once this review is complete, I will share my findings with my peers and the media. In the meantime, we will continue to conduct the research and outreach work that is the signature of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab.”

Professor Brian Wansink and Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab to address 5 main areas:

1. For Journals.  All of the analyses are being rerun by a non-coauthor PhD-trained, IRB-approved econometrician in our lab who has access to the confidential data (and who will also eventually de-identify it).  We have contacted the 4 journals and the new results (confirmatory or not) will be sent to them with errata.  We’ll also include data analysis scripts that show exactly how the data was run (inclusion criteria, which measures we used as covariates, and so on). 

2. For the Institutional Review Board. The data will be de-identified to the point where our Institutional Review Board believes that their release would not violate the confidentiality agreement with the subjects or the agreement that was made with the restaurant.

3. For Researchers.  The de-identified data, the survey, our analysis scripts, and our errata to the journals will be made available on a public website.

4. For Concerned Public.  After the data for all of the papers has been reanalyzed and we have submitted erratum to the journals, we will be in a good place to address each of the inconsistencies and to explain why they exist.  

5. For our Lab and other Behavioral Labs.  A new set of procedures and standard operating procedures for our Lab will be developed, implemented, tested, and revised.  This has already begun, and its guidance for collecting, analyzing, reporting, and storing data will be very useful in the future in tightening up operations in ways that help prevent this from happening in the future.  If other behavioral groups would find this useful, we’d be pleased to share these on the same website where the data is posted.