Following Video Game Study Retraction, Ohio State Trustees Revoke Graduate's Ph.D.

Aug 25, 2017

The Ohio State Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday morning to revoke a former student's Ph.D., after an article she co-authored was retracted from an academic journal last year.

Jodi Whitaker, now a professor at the University of Arizona, earned her Ph.D. in mass media and communication from Ohio State in 2013, specializing in violence and aggression in media and video games. However, the Ohio State Board of Trustees voted to revoke that degree after a recommendation from the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee.

"President Drake brought it to the board to vote on, in which everyone said yes," reported Summer Cartwright, an editor for The Lantern.

A 2012 study that Whitaker co-authored, called “Boom, Headshot! Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy,” claimed to find a correlation between shooting in video games and real-life marksmanship.

But after a Villanova University professor and a researcher in Germany found inconsistencies in the data, suggesting manipulation of results, the journal Communication Research retracted the paper in 2016.

“Unfortunately, the values of the questioned variables could not be confirmed because the original research records were unavailable,” the journal wrote.

University spokesperson Ben Johnson could not comment on what exactly led to the revocation of Whitaker's degree, citing the information is protected under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and cannot be shared by the university.

Ohio State typically revokes about one degree every two years, Johnson said.

Brad Bushman, a professor of communications at Ohio State, was a co-author on that paper and agreed with the decision to retract it. According to The Dispatch, Bushman remains in good standing with the university, and is working to replicate the retracted study.

An earlier version of this story said the university could not comment on what exactly led to the revocation of Whitaker's degree due to school privacy laws. The information is actually protected under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and cannot be shared by the university.