Data Colada Are Being Sued for Raising Scientific Concerns about Published Research: Support Their Legal Defense
UPDATE (Aug 21)
We hit 2,000 donors and $250K in less than 2 days! Leif, Joe, and Uri are limited in what they can say publicly while the lawsuit is ongoing, but we know they are deeply moved and grateful for this incredible show of support—knowing that the scientific community stands behind them is a huge psychological comfort during this unpleasant time. What happens next:
1. Donations are still open. We’ve hit our goal (which was a rough estimate), but you can still donate (even if it’s just a token amount) to show you value Data Colada’s contribution to science and support them in fighting the lawsuit full force.
2. We still hope that the institutions involved will step up to cover all the legal expenses. This is still possible.
3. It is also possible that Data Colada wins a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. If that happens, we don’t expect they’ll need to spend most of the money that was raised.
4. For now, the funds will remain in the GoFundMe account for Data Colada to access if they need them.
We expect that the legal process will be slow, but we are invested in this as a community. We will use this page to provide updates about the status of this fund including if/how the money is being used and/or if it will be refunded.
It has been amazing to see our community come together to stand against this lawsuit. Thank you so much.
Simine, Jessica, Alex, and Yoel
Leif Nelson, Joe Simmons, and Uri Simonsohn are professors who together publish the Data Colada blog. In June 2023, they published a series of blog posts (linked below) raising concerns about the integrity of the data in four papers co-authored by Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Francesca Gino. They waited to publish these blog posts until after the HBS’s investigation concluded, with HBS placing Professor Gino on leave and requesting retractions for the four papers. In early August 2023, Professor Gino filed a lawsuit for defamation against Harvard University, and against Leif, Joe, and Uri personally, claiming 25 million dollars in damages. Defending oneself in court is time-consuming and expensive regardless of the merits of the lawsuit – as First Amendment lawyer Ken White put it to Vox , “The process is the punishment.” Targets of scientific criticism can thus use the legal system to silence their critics.
At present, Leif, Joe, and Uri do not have pro bono representation. The lawyers they’ve spoken to currently estimate that their defense could cost anywhere between $50,000 and $600,000 (depending on how far the lawsuit progresses). Their employers have so far only agreed to pay part of the legal fees. Defending science requires defending legitimate scientific criticism against legal bullying. That is why we are asking (with the permission of Leif, Joe, and Uri) for contributions to cover Data Colada’s legal defense .
Who Are Leif, Joe, and Uri?
In the last twenty years, psychological science has undergone a credibility revolution, dramatically improving its methods and practices. It is hard to imagine that happening without Leif Nelson, Joe Simmons, and Uri Simonsohn. If you’ve heard the term “p-hacking” (the use of analytic flexibility to obtain a p-value below the “statistical significance” threshold of .05), it’s because of them – they coined it in a 2014 paper. In 2011, they published “False-Positive Psychology: Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant,” which showed how the (at the time) standard reporting practices in psychology could dramatically inflate false-positive rates. This paper is the most-cited paper published in the journal Psychological Science.
In addition to their contributions to scientific journals, Leif, Joe, and Uri have, for the last ten years, published the Data Colada blog. Data Colada covers statistics, research methods, and behavioral science. Occasionally, Data Colada posts about anomalous data in published research. Their past investigations into untrustworthy data have been thorough and rigorous, resulting in the retraction of the article in every case. Correcting the scientific record in this way is a vital contribution.
There currently are no effective formal mechanisms for fraud or error detection in published research. We therefore depend on the efforts of volunteers such as the Data Colada team to help detect untrustworthy data. We hope that this will change in the future, but in the meantime we must support people who are doing this uncompensated work. For this investigation Data Colada has put in over 1,000 hours to detect untrustworthy data and to correct the scientific record in a responsible manner.
What Will Happen to the Money We Raise?
Leif, Joe, and Uri will have direct access to the money in the GoFundMe account. They will withdraw it only if they need to use it for legal costs associated with this lawsuit. It might be that they find pro bono representation, that legal costs are lower than expected, or that a foundation or major donor steps in to fund their defense. If so, any unused funds will be returned to the donors.
Where Can I Read More?
A good summary of the legal case and the context from Vox
The Data Colada posts on the four papers co-authored by Professor Gino:
Who Is Organizing This Fundraiser?
Simine Vazire, Yoel Inbar, Jessica Flake, Max Bazerman, Elisabeth Bik, Stuart Buck, Jennifer Doleac, James Heathers, Alex Holcombe, Don Moore, Brian Nosek, Chelsea Polis, and Juliana Schroeder organized this fundraiser, with permission from Leif, Joe, and Uri.
We are acting in our personal capacity and not on behalf of institutions or organizations we are part of.