Coauthor wrote that fraud was ‘most likely explanation’ for data irregularities
Prominent Florida State University criminology Professor Eric Stewart left his job after allegedly faking results in at least six studies about American crime to make racism seem worse than it is.
“Professor Stewart’s 16-year FSU career appears to have ended, signaled by his abrupt March 2023 absence,” The Florida Standard reported. “His sudden, unexplained replacement may indicate the looming end of the investigation, with enough evidence of fraud discovered to justify termination.”
The College Fix reached out to Stewart via his university email and office number with questions about his position on the accusations and whether he is leaving FSU permanently. Stewart did not respond.
Most recently, editors found that Stewart manipulated data in a 2011 study published in the academic journal Criminology to inaccurately show that as black and Hispanic populations grew, the surrounding white populations wanted more racially discriminatory sentencing.
“The above article, published online on 25 May 2011 in Wiley Online Library…has been retracted at the request of the authors and by agreement with the journal editors and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.,” according to the publisher’s retraction statement.
“The second author, Eric A. Stewart, in the course of responding to concerns raised with the data and analysis, identified a mistake in the way the original data were merged,” the statement continued. “The third author, Justin Pickett, also requested retraction. He has publicly stated his view that the identified discrepancies are not attributable to researcher error.”
The Florida Standard stated “in the original data, no relationship was found between growing minority populations and demands for increased sentences. If anything, Pickett pointed out, it was quite the opposite.”
“Pickett found that their sample size somehow had increased from 500 to over 1,000 respondents, the counties polled had decreased from 326 to 91, and the data was altered to the point of mathematical impossibility,” The Standard continued.
“When Pickett brought the altered research to Stewart’s attention, he was stalled,” according to The Standard. “Stewart – supported by his other co-authors– refused to give Pickett a copy of the original data for over four months.”
Pickett, a criminologist at the University of Albany, published a July 2019 article, “Why I Asked the Editors of Criminology to Retract Johnson, Stewart, Pickett, and Gertz (2011).”
“My coauthors and I were informed about data irregularities in Johnson, Stewart, Pickett, and Gertz (2011), and in my coauthors’ other articles,” Pickett wrote. “Subsequently, I examined my limited files and found evidence that we: 1) included hundreds of duplicates, 2) underreported the number of counties, and 3) somehow added another 316 respondents right before publication (and over a year after the survey was conducted) without changing nearly any of the reported statistics.”
Five other criminology studies related to race and coauthored by Stewart have also been retracted.
“The studies being retracted cover a range of topics,” according to a 2019 article in Science. “Two found that the number of black people lynched in a U.S. county 100 years ago influences whether white people in the same area today perceive black people as a threat and favor harsh punishments for them. Another examined the role of social context in antiblack and anti-Latino sentiment in the U.S. criminal justice system.”
Pickett wrote in another article on the importance of identifying fraud and his belief that it is the “most likely explanation” for the irregularities in Stewart’s articles.
“Scientific fraud occurs all too frequently—approximately 1 in 50 scientists admit to fabricating or falsifying data … and I believe it is the most likely explanation for the data irregularities in the five retracted articles,” Pickett wrote March 2020 in an Econ Journal Watch article, “The Stewart Retractions: A Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis.”
“The retraction notices say honest error, not fraud, is the explanation.” Pickett wrote. “Fortunately, if that is true, Dr. Stewart could easily prove it: recreate the original sample that produces the findings in Johnson et al. (2011) and then publicly explain how he did it.”
The Fix reached out to Pickett with questions regarding the accusations against Stewart and Pickett’s original accusations in 2019. Pickett replied and declined to comment.
IMAGE: Florida State University