A prominent researcher of food studies resigns from Cornell University in the wake of allegations that he engaged in academic misconduct.
Fall From Grace
Brian Wansink, who has been dubbed as "the world-renowned eating behavior expert" for his work on how the population thinks about food and how food is consumed, maintains that he never committed fraud.
"There was no fraud, no intentional misreporting, no plagiarism, or no misappropriation," he told Vox. "I believe all of my findings will be either supported, extended, or modified by other research groups."
His resignation was revealed by Cornell University in a statement on Thursday, Sept. 20. He was removed from all his teaching and research positions after an investigation conducted by a faculty committee found that the revered professor misreported research data, used problematic statistical techniques, failed to properly document, and preserve research results, and engaged in inappropriate authorship.
The university added that the disgraced researcher would "retire" until the end of the school year and will aid in the investigation of his previous works.
Wansink was the head of Cornell's prestigious Food and Brand Lab. His works have been cited more than 20,000 times and have caught the attention of the mainstream media.
However, he drew criticism over a 2016 blog post that seemed to praise a graduating student for massaging negative results into positive ones. His entire body of work was questioned, reviewed, and compiled in a list called "The Wansink Dossier" that highlighted every data inconsistencies, exaggerations, errors, and some instances of self-plagiarism.
Last week, JAMA joined several other publications and retracted six articles submitted by Wansink. In a statement, the journal said that the studies they pulled were not exactly wrong, but Cornell University could not provide assurances regarding their validity. The university does not have access to Wansink's original data.
Included in the studied retracted was Branding Improve School Lunches? which suggested that children respond positively to fruits and vegetables that were given attractive names such as X-Ray Vision Carrots. Buzzfeed News reported that the study was the basis of "Smarter Lunchrooms Movements," an effort co-founded by Wansink that seeks to encourage students to make healthy food choices.
Almost 30,000 schools adopted Wansink's technique of having fruit or vegetable of the day that uses a creative and descriptive name.
Buzzfeed News also revealed that the USDA has spoken to Cornell University about some of the prominent researcher's flawed studies.