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University says prominent food researcher committed academic misconduct

Brain Wansink pauses whilst speaking onstage during the Discovery Vitality Summit in 2013.

Food researcher Brian Wansink has had a total of 13 studies retracted from journals.Credit: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty

Food psychologist Brian Wansink has submitted his resignation to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and will retire at the end of the academic year, according to a 20 September statement from the university.

The move comes as Cornell announced the findings of its internal investigation that concluded that Wansink ― who is known for his work on how environmental factors such as packaging influence what people eat ― had committed academic misconduct.

In its statement, Cornell said that its year-long investigation determined that Wansink had misreported research data, used “problematic” statistical techniques and failed to properly document his results.

Wansink admitted to “some typos, transposition errors, and some statistical mistakes” in an emailed statement to Nature. But he said that they did not change the conclusions of his papers “with only one debatable exception”. He added that there “was no fraud, no intentional misreporting, no plagiarism, or no misappropriation”.

On 19 September, the Journal of the American Medical Association retracted 6 of Wansink’s papers, bringing the total number of studies the researcher has had retracted to 13.

The university says that Wansink has been removed from teaching and research responsibilities and will spend the remainder of the academic year cooperating with Cornell's ongoing review of his work.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-06802-6

Updates & Corrections

  • Update 21 September 2018: This story has been updated with comments from Brian Wansink.

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