#pruittdata latest: another one bites the dust

Earlier this winter, former leading behavioral ecologist Jonathan Pruitt was placed on paid administrative leave by McMaster University, with no access to grant funds or students, and was suspended from his Canada 150 Chair. Now he’s lost yet another paper. Pruitt & Krauel 2010 J Evol Biol has been retracted. The retraction is due in large part to outstanding data forensics by Erik Postma. You should click through and read the whole thing.

I’m pretty sure this is the oldest paper of Pruitt’s to be retracted so far. According to Wikipedia, Pruitt now has 17 retractions (the 16 listed on Wikipedia as of this writing, plus the new one that was just announced) and 6 Expressions of Concern. Protip: don’t do science in a way that eventually results in your Wikipedia page looking like his…

See also Am Nat EiC Dan Bolnick’s brief but interesting remarks on the important role that journals continue to play in enforcing scientific integrity. Of course, some journals play that role more effectively than others. Not sure what some of the journals that put placeholder EoCs on Pruitt’s papers are waiting for. Looking at you, Nature and PNAS…

6 thoughts on “#pruittdata latest: another one bites the dust

  1. Rather interesting take by the coauthor in their response (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jeb.13915), which is of course hidden behind a paywall:

    “As a co-author of Pruitt and Krauel (2010), my contribution was limited to editing the manuscript and responding to reviewers. I did not contribute to the experimental design, data collection or statistical analysis, nor have I ever seen the raw data, despite requests for it.”

  2. It strikes me the strategy behind this career “approach” is quite unusual. Basically, the notion is that if you can write papers without being slowed down by data collection, you can be high productivity. But the vast majority of ecologists and behaviorists that I know find the data collection and then the surprise of analyzing the data and figuring out what it means to be the most fun part of research and the paper writing to be something that has to be done. Giving up data collection and analysis to spend more time writing papers is not something most people I know would choose to do (obviously quite aside from the moral ethical trade-offs, but I just find it fascinating that those trade-offs kind of align with the trade-offs most scientists would choose based on how they would want to spend their time).

    • OTOH, Pruitt did maintain a lab full of spiders, did go into the field regularly, did have undergrads and other trainees running experiments under his supervision, etc. So I don’t know that Pruitt totally gave up on what most ecologists would consider the fun aspects of data collection. I mean, insofar as the fun part of data collection is some combination of “being outdoors” and “being in close proximity to your favorite species”, I don’t get the impression that Pruitt gave up on the fun part at all.

      But yes, insofar as data analysis–opening your “data present”–is the fun part for many people, it sure does seem like Pruitt gave up on that.

      (p.s. for readers who don’t get the reference to a “data present”, see here: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/why-i-am-scientist-again-the-concept-of-a-data-present/)

  3. On the darkest day of winter, deep in its burrow, the fox stirs. Tired from years of foxhunts, goose chases and so much gekkering, the fox had taken respite for the winter. Stretching and yawning, the fox peered out of the burrow and tested the air. The wind still dropped from the mountains, across the spreading city, to the fox’s burrow on the edge of the prairie. The fox detected familiar odors and stories, some pleasant and some most foul. The fox was tempted to reenter the fray. But no, the fox is a veteran of the chase, and knows these winds, fair and foul, will still be blowing in the spring. The fox returns to the safety of the den, and drifts back into the deep sleep of winter, dreaming of chases to come and perhaps a tropical vacation, feasting on bananas flambe.

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