The limitations of our process for defending scientific research.
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A few weeks ago I wrote about the consequences of Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino’s lawsuit against the three researchers — Leif Nelson, Joe Simmons, and Uri Simonsohn — who uncovered enormous discrepancies in the data backing four papers on human behavior which Gino co-authored. A forensic investigation commissioned by Harvard found the same discrepancies that the independent researchers did, and Harvard has sought a retraction of the papers, conducted an investigation, and suspended Gino.
Gino has sued the three researchers who uncovered the manipulated data for “not less than $25 million,” alleging that she was defamed by the series of blog posts in which they laid out the discrepancies.
Telling the truth is an absolute defense in a defamation case. When Harvard commissioned an independent forensic investigation of the data that the Data Colada team had called into question, the independent investigation found “an apparent series of manipulations to a dataset prior to its publication” — backing up what the Data Colada team had identified.