Reading about Diederik Stapel reminds me of the quote from Walter Scott: “Oh, What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”. To list the full extent of his fraud, (including advising 20 Phd’s, many of whom used data he had faked), do visit the Wikipedia page.

But it is not the extent of the fraud that makes it fascinating, it is how it started, why it continued, and how on earth he was not caught earlier! To this end, he has written a book describing the process; freely available for download, and therefore, also here:

If you are a little daunted by the more than 200 pages, read this extract, where he describes his state of mind before starting to cheat. From what I have read so far, this is the style and tone, making for an easy read.

I showed how you could take the big multicolored ball of wool that others had made,
and sort it into lots of individual threads, sorted by color. All very commendable, but also
very dull, and not of much use to anyone. “OK, so now we know it’s more complicated than
we thought. Thanks.”
I published all kinds of things, but for whom? My minor artisanal discoveries were
too trivial to make it into textbooks, while my theories were to dry for anyone to want a
chapter on them in the handbook they were editing. At conferences I was still in the small – to-
medium rooms off to one side. I’d never been invited to be the keynote speaker. I was
bored. I wanted to come up with a line of research that everyone would want to follow. I
didn’t want to clear up after other people any more. I wanted to stop picking balls of wool
apart and start making some of my own. I wanted to get out the spinning wheel and weave
my own research. I wanted to do something really important and sensational, to really
make a contribution. I wanted to be one of the stars.


There is also an excellent interview with him here:

Diederik Stapel’s Audacious Academic Fraud

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.

Share This