MAASTRICHT. There are doubts about the scientific reliability of three articles by James Hunton, a former American professor of Accountancy who was also a professor at Maastricht University during the first decade of this century. This was announced by the Association of Dutch Universities (VSNU) last Tuesday after an investigation by a Scientific Integrity Committee. The articles concerned relate to Erasmus University Rotterdam, where Hunton worked part time from 2009 until 2012.
The three articles have meanwhile been withdrawn by the respective journals on the basis of their own investigations.
The VSNU’s Scientific Integrity Committee states that Hunton has damaged the “principles of good scientific research.” They doubt his scientific reliability because he refused to co-operate with the investigation and provided no raw data. The co-authors have responded, but were unable to hand over any data. Incidentally, they are not being blamed for anything, the committee writes and in doing so endorses the opinion of the publishers of journals. They say that there is no evidence to suggest that Hunton’s co-authors were aware of or had any involvement in his misconduct.
This is not the first time that Hunton’s articles have been withdrawn. The ball started to roll when Erasmus University Rotterdam and Bentley, Hunton’s home university in Massachusetts, received a written complaint on 12 November 2012 about the way in which he conducted research. The second complaint arrived not much later. Hunton was confronted with this and soon after he resigned from Bentley because of private and health reasons. Bentley University set up an investigation and concluded in 2014 that in at least two publications (in The Accounting Review and in Contemporary Accounting Research) there was evidence of data fabrication and scientific misconduct. It appeared that Hunton was the only author who had access to the original data. He told his co-authors that the data could not be shared because of confidential agreements that he had made with his sources, which included some accountancy firms. Copies of completed questionnaires have not been found either. If possible partners were found in the documents, it later appeared that they had never worked with Hunton.
According to the Retraction Watch website, thirty articles have now been withdrawn of which he was the main author or co-author – the larger part upon request from the American Accounting Association, which speaks of his “pattern of misconduct”.
At Maastricht University, Hunton gave an inaugural speech on 15 October 2004: ‘Computers, commerce and control’. He was supervisor of at least one Maastricht Ph.D. student, together with Eddy Vaassen, who initially worked at the UM and who is now professor at Tilburg University. The latter was unattainable today. Staff from the department of Accounting & Information Management were not available for comment either, because of the annual congress of the European Accounting Association in MECC.