By Katie Burke, Daily Staff Reporter
Published July 16, 2012
Amid reports of irregularities in their past published research, a University psychology professor ended his tenure.
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According to Nature, an international science journal, former psychology Prof. Lawrence Sanna resigned in May after inconsistencies were found in his research by Uri Simonsohn, a University of Pennsylvania associate psychology professor.
Sanna’s research dealt with the relationship between altitude and altruism and was conducted while he was working at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Simonsohn wrote in an e-mail to The Michigan Daily that the discovered discrepancies in Sanna’s work will be published in a research paper that will be submitted to peer review.
Simonsohn added that he is surprised by the lack of transparency the University and UNC have demonstrated on Sanna’s resignation and past reviews of his work.
“I am struck by how little information UNC and (University) of Michigan are giving the world,” Simonsohn wrote. “They conducted investigations and accepted the resignation of a tenured professor.”
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said the University does not disclose details of employment concerns.
“(The University) doesn’t discuss personnel issues or anything like that,” she said.
According to the May 2011 Summary of Personnel Actions Regents Agenda, Sanna attended the University of Connecticut where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1983. He then received his Master of Arts in 1988 and Doctorate in 1991 from Pennsylvania State University.
Sanna has taught at Pennsylvania State University, Bucknell University, Washington State University and UNC, according to the agenda. He was the director of the Social Psychology Program at UNC from 2005 to 2010.
According to the agenda, Sanna’s renowned research has dealt mainly with decision theory in social settings.
“(Sanna) has conducted excellent work on a variety of topics with the common underlying objective of better understanding how the interplay between people’s thoughts and feelings influence judgments, choices and actions,” the agenda reads.
Sanna’s tenure at the University was recommended by LSA Dean Terrence McDonald, according to the agenda.
Cunningham said Sanna began his time at the University on July 1, 2011 and left on May 31 of this year. He taught one section of Psychology 280 during the winter semester.
Cunningham added that Sanna did not conduct any research during his time at the University.
Cunningham wrote in an e-mail that dealing with Sanna’s abrupt absence will be a complex process.
“Funding for faculty positions is complicated with a lot of variables,” Cunningham wrote. “In departments as large as Psychology, for the time being, they will be able to absorb the classes that Dr. Sanna taught or was scheduled to teach.”
Cunningham also wrote that the University will eventually find someone to replace Sanna.