April 26, 2013

Social psychology fraud: Just tell professors what they want to hear

Here's a long NYT Magazine article on Diederik Stapel, a prominent Dutch social psychologist:
The Mind of a Con Man
By YUDHIJIT BHATTACHARJEE 
Published: April 26, 2013  
One summer night in 2011, a tall, 40-something professor named Diederik Stapel stepped out of his elegant brick house in the Dutch city of Tilburg to visit a friend around the corner. It was close to midnight, but his colleague Marcel Zeelenberg had called and texted Stapel that evening to say that he wanted to see him about an urgent matter. 
... “What’s up?” Stapel asked, settling onto a couch. Two graduate students had made an accusation, Zeelenberg explained. His eyes began to fill with tears. “They suspect you have been committing research fraud.” 
Stapel was an academic star in the Netherlands and abroad, the author of several well-regarded studies on human attitudes and behavior. That spring, he published a widely publicized study in Science about an experiment done at the Utrecht train station showing that a trash-filled environment tended to bring out racist tendencies in individuals. ... 
On his return trip to Tilburg, Stapel stopped at the train station in Utrecht. This was the site of his study linking racism to environmental untidiness, supposedly conducted during a strike by sanitation workers. In the experiment described in the Science paper, white volunteers were invited to fill out a questionnaire in a seat among a row of six chairs; the row was empty except for the first chair, which was taken by a black occupant or a white one. Stapel and his co-author claimed that white volunteers tended to sit farther away from the black person when the surrounding area was strewn with garbage. Now, looking around during rush hour, as people streamed on and off the platforms, Stapel could not find a location that matched the conditions described in his experiment. 
“No, Diederik, this is ridiculous,” he told himself at last. “You really need to give it up.” ...

In reality, Stapel had simply made up all the data for this, his most popular study, and at least 54 others. He never carried out the studies; he just typed plausible sounding numbers into his computer.

Not surprisingly, the quasi-bogus field of "priming" attracted Stapel, where, apparently, he first started to get creative.
While there, Stapel began testing the idea that priming could affect people without their being aware of it. ... The experiment — and others like it — didn’t give Stapel the desired results, he said. He had the choice of abandoning the work or redoing the experiment. But he had already spent a lot of time on the research and was convinced his hypothesis was valid. “I said — you know what, I am going to create the data set,” he told me. 
Sitting at his kitchen table in Groningen, he began typing numbers into his laptop that would give him the outcome he wanted. He knew that the effect he was looking for had to be small in order to be believable; even the most successful psychology experiments rarely yield significant results. The math had to be done in reverse order: the individual attractiveness scores that subjects gave themselves on a 0-7 scale needed to be such that Stapel would get a small but significant difference in the average scores for each of the two conditions he was comparing. He made up individual scores like 4, 5, 3, 3 for subjects who were shown the attractive face. “I tried to make it random, which of course was very hard to do,” Stapel told me. 
Doing the analysis, Stapel at first ended up getting a bigger difference between the two conditions than was ideal. He went back and tweaked the numbers again. It took a few hours of trial and error, spread out over a few days, to get the data just right. 
He said he felt both terrible and relieved. The results were published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2004. “I realized — hey, we can do this,” he told me. 
Stapel’s career took off. He published more than two dozen studies while at Groningen, many of them written with his doctoral students. They don’t appear to have questioned why their supervisor was running many of the experiments for them. Nor did his colleagues inquire about this unusual practice. 
In 2006, Stapel moved to Tilburg, joining Zeelenberg. Students flocked to his lab, and he quickly rose in influence. In September 2010, he became dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He could have retreated from active research to focus on administration, but, he told me, he couldn’t resist the allure of fabricating new results. He had already made up the data for the Utrecht train-station study and was working on the paper that would appear in Science the following year. Colleagues sought him out to take part in new collaborations. ...
The key to why Stapel got away with his fabrications for so long lies in his keen understanding of the sociology of his field. “I didn’t do strange stuff, I never said let’s do an experiment to show that the earth is flat,” he said. “I always checked — this may be by a cunning manipulative mind — that the experiment was reasonable, that it followed from the research that had come before, that it was just this extra step that everybody was waiting for.” 

Obviously, with his famous study of white racism at the Utrecht train station, it helps to deliver lessons that the world wants to hear. The problem for honest social scientists is that large parts of reality are more or less off limits. Nobody wants to hear honest, wide-ranging truths about race these days.

For example, to this day, we constantly read denunciations of the IQ researcher Sir Cyril Burt (1883-1971), despite the murkiness of the story. Why? Because his results disputed the idea that heredity plays no role of intelligence. Similarly, the saintly Arthur Jensen was largely shoved down the memory hole so that we had to get a drive going just to get the great man obituarized when he died last year.

Yet, we see the 1960's work of Rick Heber of the Milwaukee Project enthusiastically cited in the NYT a generation after Heber went to prison for fraud.

In Nicholas D. Kristof's 4/15/2009 column in the NYT, he wrote:
Professor Nisbett strongly advocates intensive early childhood education because of its proven ability to raise I.Q. and improve long-term outcomes. The Milwaukee Project, for example, took African-American children considered at risk for mental retardation and assigned them randomly either to a control group that received no help or to a group that enjoyed intensive day care and education from 6 months of age until they left to enter first grade.
By age 5, the children in the program averaged an I.Q. of 110, compared with 83 for children in the control group. Even years later in adolescence, those children were still 10 points ahead in I.Q.

From the Concise Encyclopedia of Special Education (latest edition 2002).
The term Milwaukee Project is the popular title of a widely publicized program begun in the mid-1960s as one of many Great Society efforts to improve the intellectual development of low-achieving groups. It was headed by Rick Heber of the University of Wisconsin (UW), Madison, who was also director of the generously funded Waisman Institute in Madison. The Milwaukee Project was a small study with some 20 experimental subjects and 20 control subjects. It was not reported on by the investigators in any refereed scientific journals, yet its cost was some $14 million, mostly in federal funds, and its fame was international, since it claimed to have moved the IQs of its subject children from the dull-normal range of intelligence to the superior range of intelligence. ...

Enthusiasm, controversy, and scandal subsequently surrounded the history of the project. Its claimed success was hailed by famous psychologists and by the popular media. Later in the project, Heber, the principal investigator, was discharged from UW, Madison and convicted and imprisoned for large-scale abuse of federal funding for private gain. Two of his colleagues were also convicted of violations of federal laws in connection with misuse of project funds. …. However, the project received uncritical acceptance in many college textbooks in psychology and education.

Why? Because there is a market for lies.

43 comments:

Mangan said...

Wonder whether Stapel fell afoul of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benford's_law<Benford's Law</a>, refering to the frequency of digits in a data set. Maybe he hadn't thought of that.

Anonymous said...

Those anti-racism studies and brainwashing may bring some unexpected consequences.

Mr Lomez said...

The Kinks wrote a song about this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGcwpJgge6g

Greg said...

Obviously this Dutch researcher is a fraud. But why is priming quasi-bogus?

It seems like there are a huge number of studies from a large number of researchers that show a priming effect.

rightsaidfred said...

A market for the proper lies.

The ends justify the means.

Harry Baldwin said...

How can a civilization survive with people named "YUDHIJIT BHATTACHARJEE" and such? Can you imagine fitting that on the first line of a check or on an application for a cell phone? Indians, get with the program. Eight letters is enough for a last name, ten at most.

Roger said...

So Kristof made a mistake? I am assuming that the NY Times published a correction a couple of days later.

Anonymous said...

"there is a market for lies."


Careful there, Comrade Steve! Besides, is it really a lie if I look all prim, proper, and pious? Who can say where a white lie ends? And it would be so pretty if it were so!

Margaret Mead and "Coming of Age in Samoa" might be another bit of work in this category, see "The Fateful Hoaxing Of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis Of Her Samoan Research".

Rob said...

Dieterik Stapel

Anonymous said...

"He could have retreated from active research to focus on administration, but, he told me, he couldn’t resist the allure of fabricating new results."

Sounds like the same condition feminists have.

Jim Bowery said...

Groningen, eh? My Y-Chromosome is quite distinctly from Groningen and I've always wondered why, exactly, my patriline left. Get a load of this "dude".

Janh said...

Are there any critical reviews of the Milwaukee Project results out there? Surely psychologists don't just accept the results.

ziel said...

So Kristof made a mistake? I am assuming that the NY Times published a correction a couple of days later.

Nope, no correction. You can see for yourself here.

Auntie Analogue said...


Our own Dear Rulers' mendacity in pushing their latest in a series of mendacious immigration and amnesty and refugee bills is captured perfectly in this sentence:

"We are all Stapels now."

candid_observer said...

Over time, I've come to the conclusion that the major component in the studies of priming and stereotype threat that lies behind their statistically significant results is not something subtle, like publication bias, or poor experimental design. Rather, it is fraud, or something very little removed from it.

It's just too easy to get away with being a Stapel in social psychology; and it requires no genius to figure out how to do it by oneself.

candid_observer said...

"It seems like there are a huge number of studies from a large number of researchers that show a priming effect."

But isn't it remarkable that someone like Stapel, who couldn't have been more sympathetic to the existence of the effect, for the life of him couldn't get an experiment to show it?

How many other researchers went through the same frustration, with the same "remedy" as Stapel's?

NOTA said...

I do not believe for a microsecond that his PhD students didn't know something seriously fishy was going on. Most likely, they knew weird crap was happening with the numbers and suspected that it was bogus. I wouldn't hold them responsible for that, exactly--Stapel held all the cards in that interaction, and could pre-emptively end their careers anytime he liked, while nothing they said about him was likely to hurt his reputation.

This is a big problem in all of science, I think. There is a hell of a lot more research published than checked carefully or replicated. (The usual reason anyone replicates your research is because they want to build on it.) And failure to replicate someone else's result can have a lot of legitimate causes--some subtle effect or lab contaminant or something might explain the whole thing.


Dennis Dale said...

Kind of ironic, isn't it, how primed some are to believe evidence of certain types of "priming"?

Curtains Mc Gee said...

This sort of thing goes on much more often than you'd think, but rarely leads to a guilty verdict and punishment. Problem is, the system is all wrong for dealing with it. When a prof is accused of research misconduct, NIH and other major funding agencies rely upon the university itself to investigate it and draw a conclusion. And of course, no one, from their dept head to the President of the University, wants a scandal to come out that one of their tenured jewels who has taught hundreds if not thousands of students over the years, has been committing research fraud with millions of dollars worth of federal grants. If they are found guilty, then yes, the punishments can be there- at the very least, the prof in question will be banned from receiving federal funds for many years, and additional punishments as mentioned in the article are possible. But of course, that rarely happens. Its more often a game of,"let's see what plausible CYA story we can make up about what happened here". Its a 'thin blue line' sort of scenario, where other profs support each other, the whole way up the chain.

Basically, ad hoc committees composed of other professors are created to examine the evidence and reach a conclusion. However, they are often colleagues who have worked closely with the other professors, maybe even collaborated with them on research projects, teaching, etc. for decades. Also, they know that it would be bad for the University (and for them) if a scandal came out.

What needs to be done is to have impartial outside juries/judges try the 'case'. Otherwise, it becomes a situation that would exist if Ken Lay and Jeff Skillings had been allowed to decide if each other had done wrong and decided what the punishment for each other would be. "Gee, what these witnesses said about Enron was all just a big misunderstanding. There was nothing fraudulent going on. No missing money, it was all spent correctly on business expenses, and we can explain everything. After all, we can corroborate each other's story."

Anonymous said...

Don't come down so hard on all these lefty academics, Steve. Remember: "If you tell a big enough lie for long enough, people will believe you."

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:

"The Milwaukee Project's claimed success was celebrated in the popular media and by famous psychologists. However, later in the project Rick Heber, the principal investigator, was discharged from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and convicted and imprisoned for large-scale abuse of federal funding for private gain. Two of Heber's colleagues in the project were also convicted for similar abuses. The project's results were not published in any refereed scientific journals, and Heber did not respond to requests from colleagues for raw data and technical details of the study. Consequently, even the existence of the project as described by Heber has been called into question. Nevertheless, many college textbooks in psychology and education have uncritically reported the project's results."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milwaukee_Project#cite_note-4

Whiskey said...

People want to believe lies. In fact, they need desperately to believe them. Like the Sioux "ghost dancing" in a vain attempt to believe that they could have their lands and way of life without significantly changing their culture and how they lived.

They couldn't.

Nearly all of the elites cannot fathom that their "landed estates" in the welfare system is rapidly eating past wealth, at best they are like the elites in Cyprus and at worst like those in Chicago, Atlanta, and other doomed cities (like NYC) watching the wealth just crumble. Heck even NBC's "Revolution" and SyFy's series pick up on the idea (and ruined St. Louis Gateway Arch) on the unsustainability of the current system. Both posit the ruin of current America as being the work of "evil White guys" (is there any group so evil?) and a need for even more diversity and White female empowerment as a solution. But they recognize the failure.

Understanding the truth would lead inexorably to knowing Black people would be a permanent welfare burden and with a few exceptions, unsuited to anything resembling useful employment. It would acknowledge that Mexico and its millions were capable of only the most minimal skilled labor and thus a huge drain on society -- just when society and nations needed the money most. It would acknowledge that force and fear are respected, being "nice" gets you kicked in the teeth. And being weak gets you preyed upon. And that there is no future in being a Welfare minder, media high priest, etc. in the rapid technological and wealth shifts that make places like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Italy, and France inevitably bankrupt losers dependent totally on German goodwill.

CJ said...

The Milwaukee Project was a small study with some 20 experimental subjects and 20 control subjects. It was not reported on by the investigators in any refereed scientific journals, yet its cost was some $14 million, mostly in federal funds ...

I did not know that Heber skimmed that much dough. In the 1960s, $14 million was serious scratch. The "study" couldn't have cost more than a few thousand, which went a long way then. A pioneer indeed.

Anonymous said...

For many psychologists, the clearest sign that their field was in trouble came, ironically, from a study about premonition. Daryl Bem, a social psychologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, showed student volunteers 48 words and then abruptly asked them to write down as many as they could remember. Next came a practice session: students were given a random subset of the test words and were asked to type them out. Bem found that some students were more likely to remember words in the test if they had later practised them. Effect preceded cause.

Bem published his findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP) along with eight other experiments1 providing evidence for what he refers to as “psi”, or psychic effects. There is, needless to say, no shortage of scientists sceptical about his claims. Three research teams independently tried to replicate the effect Bem had reported and, when they could not, they faced serious obstacles to publishing their results.


http://www.nature.com/news/replication-studies-bad-copy-1.10634


and more by ed yong:

http://www.nature.com/news/uncertainty-shrouds-psychologist-s-resignation-1.10968

on priming(though with a hasty retreat in the comments)

http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-laureate-challenges-psychologists-to-clean-up-their-act-1.11535

Anonymous said...

Stapel's work may have been lies.

But it surely "illustrated a wider truth", and that's what counts.

Anonymous said...

and one last ed yong article on the john bargh fiasco, a bigwig name in the priming studies.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/03/10/failed-replication-bargh-psychology-study-doyen/#.UXuy5NX_nak

the dude made it to a meme

http://lolsevier.tumblr.com/post/19011088446/the-john-bargh-series-see-here-for-more

Dr Van Nostrand said...

Written by Yudhijit Bhatterjee, a Bengali, an Indian ethnicity famous for their intellectua Marxism and romantic third worldism which makes Edward Said look like Sean Hannity in comparision, writing for the New York Times. What do you expect?

Harry Baldwin said...
How can a civilization survive with people named "YUDHIJIT BHATTACHARJEE" and such? Can you imagine fitting that on the first line of a check or on an application for a cell phone? Indians, get with the program. Eight letters is enough for a last name, ten at most."

LOL you see my name, youll faint. Perhaps Indians will do well with the Chinese system ,where they have a "business" western name and their traditional official Chinese which is as expected a nighmare to pronounce.
Seriously though Yudhijit has a pretty cool meaning- it means victorious in war.

Jonathan Silber said...

...even the most successful psychology experiments rarely yield significant results.

In other words, in psychology the best results that researchers can produce are insignificant.

Only sociologists are greater charlatans than psychologists.

David Davenport said...

It seems like there are a huge number of studies from a large number of researchers that show a priming effect.

Centuries ago, there were a huge number of studies from a large number of respected people that showed a miraculous experience or vision effect.

( Me, I attend church regularly, still waiting for a miraculous experience or vision. )

Anonymous said...

"Why? Because there is a market for lies."

Well there's the thing. There isn't really a market for it exactly - hence the need for an absolute monopoly on information.

Jeff W. said...

People who succeed in academia do so by sucking up to authority figures and aping their style of talking and mannerisms. The academic personality type, on a 1-10 scale:

- Wanting to please and impress authority figures (10)

- Wanting to fit in with the group (10)

- Intelligence (8)

- Truthfulness (2)

These people basically don't care if what they say is true or false, but whether it helps them impress authority figures fit in with the group.

For more insight into the academic personality, the history of how the professors in Germany turned into Nazis in the 1930's is instructive.

Svigor said...

That spring, he published a widely publicized study in Science about an experiment done at the Utrecht train station showing that a trash-filled environment tended to bring out racist tendencies in individuals.

LOL. That definitely doesn't sound like working backwards from a desired conclusion, or anything.

The whole idea of (humans) studying the mind inevitably runs into Godel's incompleteness theorems (or truths very much like them - I G**gled a phrase and found the theorem just now). Humans are much better at explaining the world around them than they are at explaining themselves.

Heber, lol. You really have to screw the pooch to get thrown in the slammer for sociological malpractice.

Careful there, Comrade Steve! Besides, is it really a lie if I look all prim, proper, and pious? Who can say where a white lie ends? And it would be so pretty if it were so!

Stapel's work may have been lies.

But it surely "illustrated a wider truth", and that's what counts.


"I always tell the truth; even when I lie."

Sociopathy as Sociology.

Dennis Dale said...

Stapel's work may have been lies.

But it surely "illustrated a wider truth", and that's what counts.


When I read this quote in Johnson's History of Christianity I was struck by the similarity in attitudes between one age's true believers and those of our own:

"manifest fabrications [of biblical scripture by early transcribers] should not be regarded as deliberate fraud, done with intent to deceive...an earnest scribe, believing wholeheartedly that the doctrine of the Trinity was true, thought it merely an accident or oversight that it was not made explicit in 1 John, and therefore saw it as his duty to remedy the matter. He was merely doing constructive work in the cause of truth!"

Anonymous said...

That's curious,( Irony Alert ) I've heard the Milwaukee Project mentioned in print at least a dozen times, and never once was it mentioned that the director of the project went to the penitentiary for fraud. I think even in the Bell Curve it's not mentioned what became of the author. I thought the project was never replicated, but that it was never published in peer reviewed journals, that is never mentioned. Our MSM elites are truly building castles out of sand at high tide.

Anonymous said...

You should sue, Roissy, Steve. iSteve is where pretty lies perish.

Saint Louis said...

I've been in the Utrecht train station many times. A couple of times the trash cans were overflowing. I don't remember if it made me feel any more racist or not.

rob said...

Whiskey said...
...But they recognize the failure.

Understanding the truth would lead inexorably to knowing Black people would be a permanent welfare burden and with a few exceptions, unsuited to anything resembling useful employment. It would acknowledge that Mexico and its millions were capable of only the most minimal skilled labor and thus a huge drain on society -- just when society and nations needed the money most.


It will lead to a bit more than that. It will lead to realizing that Jews, who even now write propaganda pieces about how America failed recent bombers and needs to legalize the squatters and do more for them, because sure, the terrorists weren't conservative white Christians like they wished for aloud, but let's talk about how bad white (but not not them!) people are, that that ethnic group did this to us.

'Course deflecting blame towards innocents like white women, SWPLs, and the Harvard-WASP mafia is why you're here. So you knew that.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how the details of the fascinating career of Franz Rick Heber have really never been dug up and pieced together. It appears that the fraud charges brought against him (mainly in federal district court in Madison, WI, in July 1981 ) involved in each count fairly trivial amounts of money (given that Heber was a multi millionaire, heavily devoted to the importation,breeding, and showing of fine Arabian horses ) that were funds aimed not at the Milwaukee Project per se but at an
auxilliary project for holding training sessions, workshops, etc.
A motive of personal gain is a little wobbly vis a vis the known facts of the matter. For example, the phantom job "held" by a wife of one of his University cohort was the basis for financing her husband's travel to Europe for genuine academic activities re mental retardation. Heber was very very bright and not merely adept at success in the academic arena but in campus politics, as well. In fact, he made a helluva lot of money from real estate deals and was known internationally for his devotion to the importation, breeding, and showing of fine Arabian horses. Now, I've yet to know anyone involved with horse or dog breeding who felt otherwise than the biology was very basic to the personality traits and mental ability of humans. BTW, by all indications Heber remained well respected and trusted within the community of Arbabian horse fanciers up until his death in a place wreck in Rwanda in December 1987--five years after he started serving a three year prison sentence in fed. country club prisons (Bastrop TX, e.g. ) He was a wheeler dealer who exuded power and prestige. His rise within the
academic community was truly meteroric. My own hunch is he was resented on campus for his capacity to be a winner not merely at the seminar table but at the country club, the investment council, the state legislature, etc ?? He got "in" with the Kennedys and apparently with their concurrence and encouragement carried out of state of the art definitive diagnosis of Rose Kennedy. He reportedly was a personal friend of Sadat (Arabian horses ). He had many features of
the successful ("successful" ) psychopath. Perhaps one was just an axiom that reality was whatever most influential people believe about any topic--his, Heber's, role to strum the strings and milk the power and prestige? Perhaps he , the horse breeder, never really believe it possible to affect mental retardation significantly by enviornmental manipulations, but just found that
it was easy to con a dishonest society. ?? One thing is for damn sure, the story of the Milwaukee Project and Heber's career has yet to be unearthed and laid out. It manifestly is a story worth knowing.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that the Heber Affair is "known" about in a kind of paste and scissors way and , sadly, not by anyone getting into the primary source materials. He
was a genuinely brilliant person who was a wheeler dealer type successful not merely around a seminar table but in the worlds of investment and politics. He was
internationally knonwn for his involvements with the importation, breeding, and showing of fine Arabain horses. The conviction on 13 counts of misuse of funds (federal district court in Madison, WI, July 1981) was on counts in some cases involving golf clubs, used automobiles, etc.
Given that Heber was a multimillionaire there was never convicing evidence of a motive of personal gain. For example, the one phantom position held by the wife of one of his campus cohort, represented the diversion of monies into her husband's travel account to attend meetings in Europe about mental retardatin (and the Project?). The indictment, in fact, was for diversion of monies involving not the Milwaukee Project but an ancillary workshop program on campus. Heber's career was meteroric and betokened remarkable intellectual and interpersonal abilities. Was he (like most horse breeders ) a closet hereditarian who simply saw how dishonest American society was about nature/nurture and thus milked the big cow (successfully,
BTW, for nearly two decades ! )??
He died in a plane wreck in Rwanda in December 1987, about two years after he completed a three year prison term in fed country club prisons. He seems always to have been well respected and trusted among Arabian horse fanciers. He was known on campus as "the Howard Huges" of academic researchers in that he was almost never seen on campus or in state. (He lived on a horse ranch near Colorado Springs , while having a nice ranch also for horses, about 20 miles from Madison). The amazing thing to me is that three decades
after the scandal broke, there is scant indication anyone has ever delved into primary source materials, including the use of FOIA.

countenance said...

SS,

Rush just covered the Stapel affair. I only wish he would have credited you:

http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2013/04/29/the_four_corners_of_deceit_prominent_liberal_social_psychologist_made_it_all_up

Anonymous said...

Fraud notions re Heber's Milwaukee Project were pretty much deflated by Howard Garber's interesting Report. But what has never been made clear is why the Report did not get published sooner. In the only time Heber was ever interviewed (he was forced to undergo an ostensible Archival interview at Madison that took place on May 14, 1979 ) he noted that the Report was being pulled together. Garber reported later that in May 1980, he, Garber, presented what he considered a completed Report on the Milwaukee Project to Heber but Heber brushed it aside at the moment, saying it needed a few more additions. But by July 1980, Heber sensed he, Heber, was under investigation. Well, after his own "pro forma sentencing and exoneration" in December 1982, Garber apparently resumed efforts at publication of the Report. In a regional newspaper, investigative reporter Susan Trebach noted in a December 26, 1983 article that the Report had been submitted and accepted for publication and would be available early in 1984. Didn't happen. By 1985, Professor Herman Spitz and Professor Ellis Page had completed a lengthy account of how the Milwaukee Project appeared to be so highly questionable it could be considered fraudulent. The Report was finally published after Heber's death in December 1987--in 1988. The University of Wisconsin at Madison certainly had nothing to gain from these delays. Garber certainly did not and appears to have had no part in them. So...why the delays???
A school psychologist in the Milwaukee schools did a doctoral dissertation re the Project that was finished in 1989. This person tried to make contact with at least some of the approx. 17 of the original 20 experimental group children--by then, young adults. Since Milwaukee with lush welfare benefits, etc., was then a kind of low income utopia, people in the inner city tended to stay put. But this doctoral student appears to have been unable to make contact with any one of the treatment group. Other efforts were rather quietly underway from other sources about three years later. No indication of any contact. The lawyers of secrecy in the Milwaukee Project might characterize Langley or NSA, but try to find another academic research project that is so hidden.

Anonymous said...

Heber, more than two years out of early release from parole from "country club" detainment in the federal Bureau of Prisons, died in a yet mysterious small plane wreck in Rwanda in early December 1987. He was killed along with his devoted academic underling, Mary Alice Slater, and several others linked to her NW Texas academic research setting. Their presence in Zaire, Rwanda, Kenya was noted in wire service reports as being a "photo safari" of mountain gorillas. A similar "safari" of several days had occurred by them in 1986. The Amarillo or regional media tried to use telephone and FAX to supplement the wire service reports. Some interesting additional information was unearthed. Yet the fatal 1987 trip and its predecessor both were consistently reported as a touristy "photo safari" of mountain gorillas. But for the previous 15 years or more (excepting the two years Heber was getting "free from and board" ) both of them had been focused upon research regarding mental retardation and especially upon ways to elevate IQ among those otherwise functioning within this range. In the days after all these deaths of people linked to NW Texas, area and regional efforts to get additional information did unearth one item---that one of Mary Slater's social contacts reported she was into research regarding the evolution of human locomotion. But yet all the wire reports mentioned only "photo safari". However, I was recently pointed to an entry placed in the Congressional Record--Senate for Dec. 11, 1987 (pp. 32584-5) in tribute to Mary Alice Slater. The obit prepared by her family and the eulogy given by her immediate academic superior both affirmed that the salient purpose of the trip was research--not tourist safari. So why the "photo safari" decoy? One informed and reasonable conjecture that would be "vintage Heber" is that Heber had ongoing use of camcorders in the area by persons stationed there. The "safari" excursions permitted the research directors to be on site for 'finishing' purposes. The massive "safari" videos became research material when examined frame by frame in terms, say, of figure drawing tests, block design tests, etc.? In terms of Motive, Means, and Opportunity the known facts are luxuriant in their convergence upon the indication that covert research upon either the Bushmen or the Batwa pygmies was underway--the Batwa pygmies would be the most compelling research focus in terms of the background and expertise of Heber and Slater.
The problem this presents for the DoJ in declaring that information about any such research is exempt and/or excluded from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is that international agreements and rather international "common law" demand that at least some information be released about research involving humans subjects--and especially whether the design of the research was proposed and approved by third party inspection before the research was begun. And perhaps most basic in terms of the Nuremberg tribunal findings and the Helsinki accords, etc., is whether any degree of informed consent was given by the human subjects. Eric Holder's DoJ FOIA people appear to have implicitly assumed all information could be kept from release by extending exemptions and exclusions to preclude any disclosure at all. And this is the Eric Holder who wants us to know everything all the time about the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department. However, if the research was covert and involved race, IQ/adaptive behavior/ and nature/nurture---Holder could be perched on top of a political earthquake.

Anonymous said...

The Milwaukee Project and the prison sentence given Heber need to be kept distinct. None of the 13 counts against Heber was related to the Milwaukee Project.
However, the 13 counts were carefully chosen pin-point indictments deemed especially promising for successful prosecution. The obiter dicta of trial judge Barbara Crabb at Heber's late October 1981 sentencing was scathing. But her comments regarding Heber on or about Dec. 22, 1982 at the "exoneration" sentencing of Howard Garber ( to drink coffee for one hour in the presence of a US Marshall !!) were especially revealing. She asserted on the basis of presentencing review of the three major investigations that a vast amount of money was improperly handled and effectively concealed, reaching back into the late 60's (and beyojd the statute of limitations). The issue is not whether handling of any significant portion of the $14 million of federal grants going into the Milwaukee Project represented criminal violation--the issue is that it represented a violation of common social/ academic standards of how such funds should be handled by way of transparency and a degree of accountability---in short, social standards that ( like formal laws) are mainly designed to protect us from the darker side of ourselves. But part of Judge Crabb's obiter dicta (I think in the Heber prosecution?) stated directly that in terms of social-political standards, the whole U. of Wisconsin at Madison was on trial--not just Heber. The big story is that all Heber had to do was to deliver tons of grant money, brilliant research designs, lots of research exchange, lots of publication of research, etc. etc. in order to have a quid pro quo---in return for all this academic utopia, he could account mainly only to himself--did not have to be on campus much at all; in fact,from about 1972 or so, he was by all eyeball standards, not even a resident of Wisconsin. It's a campus variant of Twain's Hadleyburg. And it has not gotten a helluva lot of play on campus...well, maybe at Scott Fitzgerlad's metaphoric three o'clock in the morning of the dark night of the academic soul--but no in the classroom. The
"university" lacks "integrity".