The head of the food and nutrition research lab at Cornell University resigned Thursday after six of his studies were retracted from a scholarly medical journal and an internal university investigation found inconsistencies among his work.
Professor Brian Wansink, former head of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and a preeminent researcher on behavior and eating, tendered his resignation and was removed from all teaching and research, university provost Michael I. Kotlikoff said in a statement.
A yearlong investigation by a faculty committee found that Mr. Wansink had committed academic misconduct in “his research and scholarship, including misreporting of research data, problematic statistical techniques, failure to properly document and preserve research results, and inappropriate authorship,” Mr. Kotlikoff detailed in the statement.
On Wednesday, editors from the Journal of the American Medical Association retracted six research papers that included Mr. Wansink as an author, based on evidence collected by Cornell University.
Mr. Wansink is the author of seven books and over 200 research papers that focused on how simple behavioral changes could affect eating habits. His 2014 book “Slim by Design” garnered mainstream media attention for his insights into how unconscious behaviors influence food choices, such as where you sit at a restaurant affects how you order.
He also served in the U.S. Department of Agriculture as executive director of the Center for nutrition Policy and Promotion from 2007 to 2009, according to his resume.
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.
But allegations of academic misconduct had been building since late 2016, according to a report in the Guardian, when other researchers examined Mr. Wansink’s work and found inconsistencies among his data in at least 11 research papers and instances of self-plagiarizing.
In the Cornell statement, Mr. Kotlikoff said that Mr. Wansink would retire at the end of the academic year.
“We regret this situation which has been painful to the university community,” Mr. Kotlikoff said in the statement. “Cornell University remains committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and we are reviewing our research policies to ensure we can meet this commitment.”
The six retracted studies are:
• Super Bowls: serving bowl size and food consumption.
• First foods most: after 18-hour fast, people drawn to starches first and vegetables last.
• Fattening fasting: hungry grocery shoppers buy more calories, not more food.
• Watch what you eat: action-related television content increases food intake.
• Consequences of belonging to the “clean plate club.”