Florida State University Professor Quits, Had Six Studies Retracted

A Florida State University (FSU) professor who focused on racial data and research concerning the criminal justice system quit his job after years of accusations claimed his data was inaccurate, resulting in the retraction of several of his studies.

The Florida Standard reported that Eric Stewart, a fellow of the American Society of Criminology, had six studies retracted since being accused of falsifying data in 2019 by University of Albany professor Justin Pickett, who co-authored a 2011 study with Stewart.

The 2011 study tested if the public’s “unfavorable” views influenced their desire for prison sentences for Black and Hispanic Americans, finding that as Black and Hispanic populations grew, so did the public’s desire for discriminatory prison sentences.

However, Pickett declared the study’s findings false, asking for its retraction due to the data’s altering.

Pickett noticed that the study’s sample size grew from 500-1,000 respondents and that the number of counties polled decreased from 326-91. He said someone altered the data to the point of mathematical impossibility.

According to the Florida Standard, four of Stewart’s studies published between 2006-2015 were retracted, leading to an inquiry by FSU. Two of the three individuals on FSU’s inquiry committee had co-authored studies with Stewart, contradicting the university’s conflict of interest policy.

During the inquiry, Stewart told school administrators that Pickett’s claims “essentially lynched” him and his “academic character.”

The committee declared that the investigation lacked evidence of fraud and closed the case.

In June 2020, however, allegations surfaced over a sixth retracted work catching FSU’s attention, resulting in another inquiry and Stewart’s departure, who left the university in March 2023, leaving behind his annual salary of $190,000.

Pickett told the Florida Standard that there is a “huge monetary incentive to falsify data and there’s no accountability. If you do this, the probability you’ll get caught is so, so low,” and cited that 1 in 50 scientists have admitted to falsifying data.

Pickett added that people who co-author studies are usually friends unlikely to report a colleague for fraud. Even if reported, a university will rarely act. He cited Duke University’s recent fraud scandal, in which it paid the U.S. government over $100 million for faking scientific data.

“There’s too much incentive to fake data and too little oversight,” he continued.