A political science graduate student accused of faking data behind a recent Science paper on gay marriage is preparing to offer a defense “at my earliest opportunity,” according to statements posted on his Twitter account. “I’m gathering evidence and relevant information so I can provide a single comprehensive response,” tweeted an account registered to Michael J. LaCour, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, at about 12:15 p.m. Eastern Time today.
Yesterday, the paper's co-author, political scientist Donald Green of Columbia University, sent a letter to Science asking to retract the December 2014 paper as a result of concerns about the underlying data. LaCour was the only other author of the paper.
The study, based on in-person and Internet surveys of some 9500 registered voters in California conducted by a survey company, found that even relatively short conversations with a gay canvasser could make voters more supportive of gay marriage and equality. But questions about the study arose earlier this month when another group of researchers began a follow-on study, but got very different preliminary results. When they approached the survey company for information about the original methods, “the survey firm claimed they had no familiarity with the [original] project and … denied having the capabilities to perform many aspects of the recruitment procedures described in LaCour and Green,” the researchers report in a statement posted online.
The researchers ultimately took their concerns to Green, who questioned LaCour. Green told the researchers that LaCour admitted to misrepresenting some data. Green told Politico’s Nick Gass that he asked LaCour “to write a retraction, and he indicated he would do so, but when it did not appear last night, I sent off my own retraction.”
“Given the fact that Dr. Green has requested retraction, Science will move swiftly and take any necessary action at the earliest opportunity,” said Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt in a statement. “In the meantime, Science is publishing an Editorial Expression of Concern to alert our readers to the fact that serious questions have been raised about the validity of findings in this study.”