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Florida State University professor leaves job after accusations of faking race data, had 6 studies retracted

Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

A Florida State University professor who focused on racial data and research in the criminal justice system has left his job after years of accusations that claimed his data was dishonest, resulting in many of his studies being retracted.

The Florida Standard reports that Eric Stewart, a fellow of the American Society of Criminology, has had six studies retracted in recent years, after being accused of falsifying data first in 2019 by a professor named Justin Pickett from the University of Albany.

Pickett, who worked with Stewart on a retracted 2011 study, claims that Stewart muddied the waters in his papers. Pickett released a document critical of the professor called "The Stewart Retractions: A Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis."

Pickett says he asked that a study he was involved with be retracted because the data was altered to the point of mathematical impossibility.

The study reported that as populations of black and Hispanic Americans grew, the public desire for discriminatory sentences also grew. However, Pickett later noticed that the sample size of the study somehow grew from 500 to over 1,000 and the number of counties polled dropped from 326 to 91.

According to the Florida Standard, four more studies published between 2006 and 2015 were retracted, which led to an inquiry by FSU. However, two of the three individuals on the the inquiry committee had co-authored studies with the Stewart, the accused.

At the time, Stewart claimed that “data thugs" were after him. He also told school administrators via email that Pickett “essentially lynched me and my academic character.”

The committee determined there was not enough evidence of fraud, and the case was closed.

In June 2020, however, a sixth paper was retracted, bringing the inquiry into Stewart back to life.

His exact reason for leaving his $190,000-per-year position is unknown. The university declined to discuss the situation in relation to tenure and the investigations. Stewart was also unavailable for comment.

Without directly commenting on the situation, Pickett told the Florida Standard that there is a "huge monetary incentive to falsify data and there’s no accountability. If you do this, the probability you’ll get caught is so, so low.”

“There’s too much incentive to fake data and too little oversight," he added.

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