A prominent scientific journal retracted a controversial study on changing attitudes to same-sex marriage Thursday, after a lawyer acting for one of the co-authors admitted that it contained lies and misrepresentations.
The study, published in the journal Science, was authored by Donald P. Green, a political scientist at Columbia University, and Michael J. LaCour, a graduate student in political science at UCLA. It claimed to present data that showed attitudes toward same-sex marriage could be changed by short conversations with gay canvassers.
In the journal's statement, it cited three reasons for retracting the piece. It said that LaCour's attorney had admitted claims made in the study that cash incentives were offered to participants were false; that the study had claimed to have received funding from several organizations, which LaCour's attorney again admitted was untrue; and that on the discovery of “statistical anomalies,” LaCour was unable to produce the original data.
It also noted that while the lead author, Green, had agreed to the retraction, LaCour had not. Despite the admissions from his attorney about the falsehoods contained in the study, LaCour has said in posts on social media and his website that he stands by the findings of the paper, and has pledged to release a comprehensive report on the matter by May 29.
Problems with the study, which was published in December 2014, first came to light after two UC Berkeley graduate students, Joshua Kalla and David Broockman, flagged problems with the research to Green.
The pair had attempted to conduct their own version of the original study, but were unable to obtain similar results to LaCour's. They then contacted the survey company that LaCour reported having used to help conduct the research, and the company said it had never heard of the project, the New York Times reported.
In a statement published on the blog Retraction Watch, Green said he was “deeply embarrassed by this turn of events" and apologizes "to the editors, reviewers, and readers of Science.”
Several media outlets reported that LaCour did not respond to requests for comment, except to say that he intends to release his report tomorrow.