A NOTE FROM BRIAN WANSINK ON RESEARCH
Over the past several months, some of my peers have raised questions about the methods and conclusions of my research. Like all researchers, I welcome the careful review of my colleagues as they attempt to replicate and expand on my work. This is how science advances.
The first and most detailed of these criticisms touched on four published research papers on eating habits based upon data collected during the fall of 2008 at a regional buffet restaurant. The authors of that review reported they found 150 errors or inconsistencies in those four papers, and asked for the anonymized data and other information to be released for further review.
I, of course, take accuracy and replication of our research results very seriously. Working with my team at the Food and Brand Lab, as well as faculty colleagues and academic leaders at the college and university level, over the past several weeks I conducted a complete reanalysis of those four papers. While some of the errors cited can be attributed to simple but meaningful data reporting errors, and others to incorrect assumptions by the critics themselves, all deserve to be addressed directly and corrected where needed. To that end, I have submitted detailed errata and comments to the four Journals that published the papers (links will be available upon publication by journals), and have made available both an overview and detailed table of responses to each of the points raised. My team has also worked to make the full anonymized data and scripts for each study available for review (download below). All of this data analysis was independently reviewed and verified under contract by the outside firm Mathematica Policy Research, and none of the findings altered the core conclusions of any of the studies in question.
Since that initial critique was published in January, other researchers and interested writers have identified other areas from my large body of work for additional scrutiny, including instances of possible duplicate use of data or republication of portions of text from my earlier works. Again, I welcome this open conversation and, as I did with the initial four papers, plan to work with the Food and Brand Lab team and my colleagues here at Cornell University to respond in detail to all genuine academic criticisms. In the early stages of that work, I uncovered three instances that occurred before I came to Cornell in which papers I authored were later reworked and submitted to other journals, resulting in the republication of a significant portion of my previously published work. Whatever the circumstances in each case, the responsibility for both academic integrity and respect of copyright are mine, and I have already reached out to the six journals involved to alert the editors to the situation. I have since been informed that one of those papers is being retracted.
In addition to working with my lab and my peers at Cornell University on a thorough review of previous work, I have developed a robust new set of Standard Operating Procedures for the Food and Brand Lab. These strict procedures are designed not only to prevent the type of oversights and errors noted here from occurring in the future, but also to create a convenient system for anonymizing and cataloguing data so that this background information can be easily and routinely shared with fellow researchers anywhere in the world. In addition, we are also using these SOPs, especially as they relate to analysis, to address questions from journals, other academics, or our own research group regarding past publications. As I noted above, I welcome careful review, and I look forward to continuing the conversation about food perception and eating habits through the great work of the Food and Brand Lab for many years to come.