Science journal retracted on Thursday a widely publicized study about the effect of gay political canvassers on voters' attitudes toward same-sex marriage. Michael J. LaCour, study co-author and a graduate student in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, is being accused of three misrepresentations: giving cash payments to people to complete the surveys, declaring false study sponsors and failing to produce the raw data.
The Ford Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund and the Williams Institute at UCLA have confirmed that they did not fund the study, according to the New York Times.
The fraudulent study result was discovered when researchers at Stanford University attempted to replicate it. They reached out to the canvassers to ask them about their personal stake in the same-sex marriage issue, but failed to get similar results. They contacted the survey firm mentioned in the study and found out that it has no knowledge of the research.
"The survey firm claimed they had no familiarity with the project and that they had never had an employee with the name of the staffer we were asking for," the Stanford researchers said in a critique titled "Irregularities in LaCour. "The firm also denied having the capabilities to perform many aspects of the recruitment procedures described."
The researchers immediately informed Donald Green, study co-author and political scientist at Columbia University, of the misrepresentations. Green requested that Science journal retract the study even if LaCour did not agree, according to ValueWalk.
Laura Gardiner, national mentoring coordinator at the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Leadership Lab, expressed her disappointment on the retraction of the study as her organization was thrilled when the findings came out because it gave an idea that a single doorstep chat could convince a skeptic to accept same-sex marriage.
"It felt like being cheated on in a relationship," Gardiner told the Los Angeles Times. "Breakup songs have been cathartic this week."
This is not the first time that Science had to retract a study due to fraud. Last year, two stem cells studies were retracted due to data flaws and methodology errors.