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Dutch psychology fraudster avoids trial

Disgraced Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel, who in 2011 was found to have fabricated data in at least 30 published papers, will not face trial for misuse of public research funds. Instead, in a pre-trial settlement, Stapel has agreed to 120 hours of community service, according to a statement (in Dutch) from the Dutch public prosecutor’s office.

In the settlement, Stapel also agreed not to make a claim on 18 months of half-pay salary that he might have been entitled to contest under Dutch law, as he had said he was sick when he was suspended and fired in September 2011 by Tilburg University.

Dutch authorities opened an investigation into Stapel last October. According to Dutch newspaper NRC Handeslblad, public grants that Stapel had used for his fabricated work included some €2.2 million (US$2.8 million) from the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research.

But the public prosecutor said today that there was no abuse of the grants. The funds went mainly to salaries of staff (PhD students), who did the work they were paid for — even though that work was partly based on fabricated data. “He didn’t use the money for personal enrichment — for example, to buy a car or a house,” explained a spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s office. The community service settlement is appropriate, the statement concludes.

Stapel had already suffered severe consequences for his actions, which had been taken into account in the settlement, the spokesperson added; he had returned his PhD, and cooperated with the criminal investigation, and with the three-university committee that investigated his academic fraud.

“The case is now closed,” the spokesperson says. A Dutch newspaper,, adds that Stapel’s PhD students did not want to see the story raked over again in court.


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    Jim Woodgett said:

    There are two primary sets of victims in this case: the trainees whose work has been thrown out and the integrity of the scientific process/public trust. I truly hope the students are able to recover from the fall out from the fraud but also trust that their desire to see the case closed and buried was not because they were being discriminated against. It’s important to the second victim (scientific integrity) that this case is not simply swept under the carpet. There are many lessons to be learned including the red flags of allowing a supervisor to “generate/be the gate-keeper” of data and the apparent efforts of the universities to move the perpetrator on each time there were questions. It’s much harder to conduct and continue fraud in the open!

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