A behavioral scientist from Harvard Business School named Francesca Gino, who has studied honest behavior extensively, has been accused of making up the results of a study. This situation is quite ironic, and it’s no surprise that people are making jokes about it.
The accusations against Gino arose when her colleagues discovered evidence suggesting that she manipulated data in a research paper from 2012. The allegations were first brought to light by a blog run by other researchers and were later reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The focus of the accusations is a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In this study, Gino and two other behavioral scientists claimed that individuals who sign honesty pledges before filling out forms are more likely to be truthful compared to those who sign them after completing the forms.
“There is very strong evidence that the data were fabricated,” researchers at the blog DataColada wrote in their then-anonymous 2021 post about the study.
The data used in the study was obtained from an insurance company that examined whether its clients accurately reported information such as mileage and other important figures.
The bloggers who raised the concerns stated that an Excel file they analyzed indicated that someone involved with the study may have manipulated the results. Although the research paper implied that the data was directly provided by consumers, the bloggers’ findings cast doubt on its integrity.
As Wharton behavioral scientist Maurice Schweitzer told the NYT, this debacle has created “reverberations in the academic community” because Gino has “so many collaborators, so many articles, who is really a leading scholar in the field.”
Other experts in the field of behavioral science expressed shock at the accusations against Gino. However, some acknowledged that the survey-based methodology she employed in her research can sometimes yield questionable results.
It’s important to note that scandals involving data fabrication often involve more complexities than what initially meets the eye. Nevertheless, given that this particular controversy revolves around a study on honesty, the irony is particularly striking.