Current Events

Ph.d Degree and License Can Be Repossed

In 2013 Dr. Cruz my Social Psychology instructor had us write paper number two on four people who earned their Ph.d’s and then lost it all because of conduct unbecoming. Having an occasional attitude I thought this was a useless silly idea. However, once I started doing the research my attitude changed and I realized that this was actually an awesome beneficial rewarding and learning experience.

We have all heard the saying that “Knowledge is Power” but can knowledge and power be used for the bad as well as the good. An individual with a Sociology / Psychology degree can help many people. However that same individual with a Sociology / Psychology degree and education can also hurt people. Acquiring an education in Sociology / Psychology gives an individual a weapon, a tool that can be used for the good of mankind. Or in some instances as we will read, the tool can be used for the negative and when used for the negative does the person just walk away?

Actually once a person has been found guilty of using their  “tool”  for the bad they are severally punished. In some instances the person is left with having gone to college, studied for and endured the exams, graduated and acquired their Ph.d., paid their student loans, only to be stripped of their license to practice because of conduct unbecoming a Sociologist or Psychologist.

On the road to being a Ph.d superstar many choices and decisions are made. According to the American Psychological Association July/Austin 2010, Vol 41, No 7, page 44: Examples of scientific misdeeds include :

  • removing data points that contradict hypothesis
  • not disclosing personal or professional ties to commercial interests
  • having improper personal relationships with graduate students and research subject
  • Use ideas from other people without giving them credit

Scientific Misdeeds simply explained are the desire to make a square peg fit into a round hole !  The attitude of I can make it look like it works, after all I have a Ph.d  The attitude of I have put these many hours into the project, I attended a prestigious school therefore who will doubt me. Until one day !

American Psychological Association July/Austin 2010, Vol 41, No 7, page 44 De Vries says, “these and other pernicious misbehaviors are far more damaging to the scientific endeavor than the much rarer “big three” — Fabrication, Falsification and Plagiarism — which constitute fraud.”  We were required to look up four people who had lost their Ph.d.   Let’s take a look at the four people that I did the research on.

PERSON ONE .. Dr. Karen Ruggiero went to Harvard University and earned her Ph.d and worked a couple of years at Harvard, then came to Austin, Texas to teach at U.T. While at Harvard Karen received grants to do research. Grants received are based on the results a person can bring to the table, their notoriety, and the person asking for the money. Per the American Psychological Association: July/August 2010 Vol 41, No 7, page 44, Karen Ruggiero “admitted to fabricating five experiments published in two articles and to doctoring research that appeared in a third.” Karen’s punishment despite seeming like a slap on the hand was actually quite severe because she was banned from 5 years of public works, lost her job at U.T. was embarrassed and found out to be greedy because it was a $100,000 bonus and own research lab that lured Karen away from prestigious Harvard University, per the Austin American Statesmen, January 3, 2002 edition. Karen did Harvard wrong in leaving after Harvard had given Karen an education then job. Harvard then gave Karen a good-bye gift and initiated an investigation with the results of scientific misconduct. The results of Karen’s investigation were handed over to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity per the Austin American Statesmen, January 3, 2002 edition. Karen Ruggiero was working mostly on discrimination research and discrimination data. According to a psychology blog called The Hardest Science, Karen’s works include:

Ruggiero, K.M. & Marx, D.M (1999).
Less pain and more to gain: Why high-status group members blame their failure on discrimination.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 774-784.
Ruggiero, K.M., Steele, J., Hwang, A., & Marx, D.M. (2000).
Why did I get a ‘D’? The effects of social comparisons on women’s attributions to discrimination.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1271-1283.
Ruggiero, K.M. & Major, B.N. (1998).
Group status and attributions to discrimination: Are low- or high-status group members more likely to blame their failure on discrimination?
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 821-838.
Ruggiero, K.M., Mitchell, J.P., Krieger, N., Marx, D.M., & Lorenzo, M.L. (2000).
Now you see it, now you don’t: Explicit versus implicit measures of the personal/group discrimination discrepancy.
Psychological Science, 22, 57-67.


The above are impressive article titles with topics that people find important and the results coming from a Ph.d person reputable. The most important thing to realize is that by the time a person gets busted they’ve probably done the same thing several times. Therefore, it’s only fair to ask oneself, was any of Karen’s work valid?

PERSON TWO .. Dr. Marc Hauser was a Harvard rooted individual who was done in by a Harvard investigation and disgraced. Students complained and then one day Dr. Hauser was working at Harvard in 2007 when his laboratory was raided. With no clues as to why his laboratory was raided Dr. Hauser was left in shock not knowing what happened or why. Dr. Hauser was a Behavioral Psychologist who was accused of being solely responsible for eight counts of scientific misconduct” per the New York Times, July 20, 2011.

Can you imagine your laboratory raided because students initiated the complaints that lead to an investigation which gave you a guilty verdict of being responsible for scientific misconduct which included missing date. Eight counts of scientific misconduct can seem intimidating however per the New York Times, July 20, 2011 edition “Only one of the eight counts, about an article published in the journal Cognition in 2002, seemed to involve a possibly serious breach of research ethics. The experiment had problems that Dr. Hauser ascribed to an error in the computer-controlled protocol for alternating test and control experiments.” Ouch someone ruffled the wrong feathers of some prominent students with power! Dr. Marc Hauser resigned from Harvard University in August 2011.

PERSON THREE .. Dr. Diederik Stapel who shows us that scientific misconduct is not limited to the United States. Dr. Stapel was a social psychologist in the Netherlands at Tilburg University when in 2006 SHAZZAM his life changed forever.

Dr. Stapel a Social Psychologist has been awarded the “that takes the cake” trophy because he was charged with 55, yes fifty five counts of being a bad boy! Poor baby, he just wanted to be a writer so he fabricated to keep the attention of his audience and fit the needs of his audience …. 55 publications wow ! Dr. Diederik Stapel had to return his Ph.d which indicates the years of going to school, the stress of making sure to study for exams were all for nada (nothing). Boom all gone! The university suspended Diederik thanks to three people that decided they were going to tell on Dr. Stapel.

PERSON FOUR .. Dr. Dirk Smeester’s, a Social Psychologist. The man of Dutch Chocolate and those cutsie pointed Dutch clogs was busted and left to clonk his wooden clogs by himself ! Dr. Smeesters was a professor in the Netherlands at Erasmus University Rotterdam until investigated by fraud hunters who chose to remain anonymous. The anonymous fraud hunter read a paper of Dr. Smeester’s and saying “I don’t believe you” contacted Dr. Smeester’s.

At first, Dr. Smeester’s tried to ease the mind of the unbeliever however that did not work and the paranoia set in. Well thinking that he could clear himself Dr. Smeester’s initiated an investigation on himself, that he later tried to withdraw. However a full investigation revealed that he was guilty as charged. Dr. Smeester’s manipulated data in his writings in dozens of papers to make an impression and be impressive.

In conclusion why do they do what they do when the consequences are so severe?  Many answers however one neutral answer …. Pressure! …. Despite having a Ph.d there is still competition among Ph.d cohorts because everyone wants to get the money to fund their baby, their project, their idea, their “I know this is it.”  Then the race is on and everyone wants to lift their skirt or pants and show a little knee to get noticed, one can almost hear the “over here honey look at these results, look at my stats to impress you and get some money for funding or university tenure.”