Medical journal retracts six articles from Ivy League professor

JAMA Journals Retract Six Papers by Cornell Food Scientist

A leading medical journal has retracted six food research articles by a Cornell University marketing professor, saying the results can't be verified.

Brian Wansink has been removed from all teaching and research positions and will retire at the end of the school year next June, Cornell said in a statement.

Brian Wansink, listed as an author on all the studies, heads Cornell's Food and Brand Lab and the university's Behavioral Economics and Consumer Choice institute. That warning culminated Wednesday in the journal retracting all of Wansink's articles it had previously published.

In this December 6, 2016 file photo, Brian Wansink speaks during an interview in the produce section of a supermarket in Ithaca, N.Y. On Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, the prominent Cornell professor announced heÂs retiring after a medical journal retracted six of his food research papers.

Among the issues Cornell cited Thursday were "misreporting of research data" and "problematic statistical techniques".

The six articles retracted on Wednesday focused on how human behavior affects eating habits, including that watching action-related television increases food intake; that people are more likely to buy highly caloric groceries when shopping on an empty stomach and that plate and bowl size factors into food consumption. Several of his other papers had been retracted or corrected in the past.

However, questions started being asked about the validity of his work in January 2017, when a team of Dutch, American, and British/Irish scientists found no evidence to support 150 of his findings in a series called "the pizza papers".

In a subsequent email to WXXI News, Wansink said he was "very proud" of all the research and "confident" his lab's studies would be validated by other groups.

Ivan Oransky, a co-founder of Retraction Watch who teaches medical journalism at New York University, says Wansink appears to have engaged in a practice in which researchers cherry-pick data points to get their work published.

In lieu of his scheduled teaching and research this academic year, Cornell provost Michael Kotlikoff said Wansink will instead "be obligated to spend his time cooperating with the university in its ongoing review of his prior research".

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