A prestigious science journal has retracted a published study
that found opponents of same-sex marriage could have their opinions changed by a brief encounter with a gay canvasser, because the journal and one of the study's co-authors allege the study's data was faked, Retraction Watch reports.
The study, "When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality," was done by UCLA graduate student and Ph.D candidate Michael LaCour, with the sponsorship backup of highly respected Columbia University political science professor Donald Green. Green said LaCour had admitted falsifying some of the data and the source of financing for the study.
Green wrote to the journal Science, "I am deeply embarrassed by this turn of events and apologize to the editors, reviewers, and readers of Science," in a letter requesting the retraction, Retraction Watch reports.
LaCour told Politico
he was "gathering evidence and relevant information so I can provide a single comprehensive response. I will do so at my earliest opportunity."
LaCour's work was done in cooperation with the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
The problems with LaCour's study came to light when Joshua Kalla, a Ph.D candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, and others tried to extend the study's methods to a study of transgender equality in Florida, The New York Times reported,
and could not replicate his results.
Kalla told the Times that LaCour's study, which attracted major publicity in the national press, was "very exciting, and partly because it wasn’t just theoretical, it was something that could be applied in campaigns."
However, when he contacted the survey firm LaCour had claimed to use, the firm knew nothing about it.
Eventually, as questions mounted, Green told them that "LaCour has been confronted and has confessed to falsely describing at least some of the details of the data collection," a report Kalla and his research associates filed with Stanford University
An attorney representing LaCour told Science Editor in Chief Marcia McNutt that LaCour's claims that his research was funded by the Williams Institute, the Ford Foundation, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund were untrue, Politico reports.
McNutt also told Politico that LaCour had declined to provide "the original survey data from which someone else could independently confirm the validity of the reported findings."
New York magazine reports
LaCour, who was to begin a professorship at Princeton University next month, also allegedly lied about receiving an "Emerging Instructor Award, UCLA Office of Instructional Development, 2013-2014," on his online resume, after the department told the magazine it gives out no such award.
A spokesman for Princeton, Martin Mbugua, told the Times that appointment, which LaCour termed his "dream job" on his Facebook page, now appears to be in doubt, saying, "We will review all available information and determine the next steps."
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