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Case 66. False, Fabricated or Misleading Data


Jim Burke, a graduate student, has been funded for six months as a research assistant from a grant on which Professor Neils Rassmussen is principal investigator. As Burke is preparing slides for a presentation that Rassmussen is scheduled to give in a week, Burke notes very high correlations between many variables. Burke goes back to check the original questionnaires and notices that several questions on which the analyses for the presentation are based have exactly the same responses. Puzzled, he examines other questions and finds that at least 10 percent of all of the questionnaires are strikingly similar, if not identical. Burke shows the questionnaires to a fellow student, Sing Loo, who is working on a different grant with Rassmussen. Loo shrugs and advises, “Keep quiet, it's Rassmussen's problem. Just do your job.” When Burke protests that he can't really do a good job if there are problems with the data set, Loo persists that “your name won't be on it.” Burke debates whether he should talk with Rassmussen about possible fabrication of data by interviewers.


  1. If Burke suspects that some of the survey data were fabricated by interviewers, what should he do?
  2. What are Rassmussen's responsibilities in this situation?

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