10 July 2019

An open letter to Dr. Jerker Rönnberg

**** Begin update 2019-07-10 15:15 UTC ****
Dr. Rönnberg has written to me to say that he has been made aware of this post (thanks to whoever alerted him), and he has now read my e-mail.
**** End update 2019-07-10 15:15 UTC ****

At the bottom of this post is the text of an e-mail that I have now sent three times (on May 9, June 11, and June 25 of this year) to Dr. Jerker Rönnberg, who --- according to the website of the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology --- is the editor-in-chief of that journal. I have received no reply to any of these three attempts to contact Dr. Rönnberg. Nor did I receive any sort of non-delivery notification or out-of-office reply. Hence, I am making my request public here. I hope that this will not be seen as an presumptuous, unprofessional, or unreasonable.

I sent the mail to two different e-mail addresses that I found listed for Dr. Rönnberg, namely sjoped@ibv.liu.se (on the journal website) and jerker.ronnberg@liu.se (on the Linköping University website). Of course, it is possible that those two addresses lead to the same mailbox.

A possibility that cannot be entirely discounted is that each of my e-mails was treated as spam, and either deleted silently by Linköping University's system on arrival, or re-routed to Dr. Rönnberg's "junk" folder. I find this rather unlikely because, even after acknowledging my bias in this respect, I do not see anything in the text of the e-mail that would trigger a typical spam filter. Additionally, when spam is deleted on arrival it is customary for the system to respond with "550 spam detected"; I would also hope that after 20 or more years of using e-mail as a daily communication tool, most people would check at least the subject lines of the messages in their "junk" folder every so often before emptying that folder. Another possibility is that Dr. Rönnberg is away on sabbatical and has omitted to put in place an out-of-office reply. Whatever the explanation, however, the situation appears to be that the editor of the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology is, de facto, unreachable by e-mail.

My frustration here is with the complete absence of any form of acknowledgement that my e-mail has even been read. If, as I presume may be the case, my e-mails were indeed delivered to Dr. Rönnberg's inbox, I would have imagined that it would not have been a particularly onerous task to reply with a message such as "I will look into this." Indeed, even a reply such as "I will not look into this, please stop wasting my time" would have been less frustrating than the current situation. It is going to be difficult for people who want to correct the scientific literature to do so if editors, who are surely the first point of contact in the publishing system, are not available to communicate with them.

I will leave it up to readers of this blog to judge whether the request that I made to Dr. Rönnberg in my e-mails is sufficiently relevant to be worthy of at least a minimal reply, and also whether it is reasonable for me to "escalate" it here in the form of an open letter. In the meantime, if any members of the Editorial Board of the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, or any other colleagues of Dr. Rönnberg, know of a way to bring this message to his attention, I would be most grateful.

From: Nick Brown <nicholasjlbrown@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 9 May 2019 at 23:32
Subject: Concerns with an article in Scandinavian Journal of Psychology
To: <jerker.ronnberg@liu.se>
Cc: James Heathers <jamesheathers@gmail.com>

Dear Dr. Rönnberg,

I am writing to you to express some serious concerns about the article "Women’s hairstyle and men’s behavior: A field experiment" by Dr. Nicolas Guéguen, published in Scandinavian Journal of Psychology in November 2015 (doi: 10.1111/sjop.12253). My colleague James Heathers (in CC) and I have described our concerns about this article, as well as a number of other problems in Dr. Guéguen's body of published work, in a document that I have attached to this e-mail, which we made public via a blog post (https://steamtraen.blogspot.com/2017/12/a-review-of-research-of-dr-nicolas.html) in December 2017.

More recently, we have been made aware of evidence suggesting that the research described in the article was in fact entirely designed and carried out by three undergraduate students. You will find a description of this issue in our most recent blog post (https://steamtraen.blogspot.com/2019/05/an-update-on-our-examination-of.html). For your convenience, I have also attached the report that these students wrote as part of their assignment, with their names redacted. (The original version with their names visible is available, but it is spread across several files; please let me know if you need it, and I will stitch those together.)

I have two principal concerns here. First, there would seem to be a severe ethical problem when a full professor writes an empirical article describing research that was apparently designed and carried out entirely by his students, without offering them authorship or indeed giving them any form of acknowledgement in the article. Second, we believe that the results are extremely implausible (e.g., an effect size corresponding to a Cohen's d of 2.44, and a data set that contains some unlikely patterns of regularity), which in turn leads us to believe that the students may have fabricated their work, as is apparently not uncommon in Dr. Guéguen's class (cf. the comments from the former student who contacted us).

The decision about what, if anything, should be done about this situation is of course entirely in your hands. Please do not hesitate to ask if you require any further information.

Kind regards,
Nick Brown
PhD candidate, University of Groningen

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