Research from an Ohio State communication professor was retracted from a scientific journal after two outside researchers found discrepancies in variables from the original experiment when they replicated the study.
Brad Bushman and former Ohio State doctoral candidate Jodi Whitaker had their research on first-person shooter video games and their effect on real-life marksmanship retracted from Communication Research, a peer-reviewed journal. Patrick Markey of Villanova University and Malte Elson of Ruhr University Bochum, in Germany, found “irregularities in some of the variables of the data set” when they tried to replicate Bushman’s experiment.
“The Ohio State University was alerted to irregularities in some of the variables of the data set by Drs. Markey (Villanova U) and Elson (Ruhr U Bochum) in January 2015,” Jason Grabmeier, OSU’s director of research communications, said in an email.
Bushman is still employed by the university “in good standing,” Grabmeier said, and is redoing the study because the raw data was unavailable to check against the reported irregularities.
Bushman referred a request for comment to OSU.
After replicating the experiment, Markey and Elson noticed two different data files for the variables used, and the raw data from the story was missing.
“We discovered two different data files between which the codes for variables were altered,” Markey said in an email. “These alterations occurred in a manner which supported the original study’s hypotheses. Additionally, the authors of the original study were unable to provide the raw data in order to confirm which data file was correct.”
OSU was alerted about the discrepancy, but Grabmeier said the original research records had been “taken” from OSU, leaving Bushman and the university “unable to confirm the values of the questioned variables.”
The article was originally published online in April 2012, and in print in Oct. 2014, but was not replicated until Jan. 2015. Once replicated, Markey and Elson brought their issues to OSU, which then recommended the article to be retracted.
“Therefore, in November 2015, Dr. Bushman and The Ohio State University recommended the retraction or correction of the article,” Grabmeier said in an email. “In 2016, Drs. Markey (Villanova U) and Elson (Ruhr U Bochum) sent an inquiry regarding this matter to Dr. Gibbs, one of the editors of Communication Research, who decided that a retraction was warranted. A replication of the study by Dr. Bushman has been done and is under review.”
Whitaker and Elson both did not respond to requests for comment.
Update, 1/26: This story was updated with details concerning Bushman’s employment and status on redoing the study.
Correction, 1/26: One of the researchers who found irregularities with some of the variables in the study’s data set was given the wrong first name. It is Malte Elson, not Diane Elson.