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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21/education/21harvard.html

August 20, 2010
Harvard Finds Scientist Guilty of Misconduct By NICHOLAS
WADE<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/w/nicholas_wade/index.html?inline=nyt-per>

Harvard University<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/harvard_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org>said
Friday that it had found a prominent researcher, Marc Hauser, “solely
responsible” for eight instances of scientific misconduct.

Hours later, Dr. Hauser, a rising star for his explorations into cognition
and morality, made his first public statement since news of the inquiry
emerged last week, telling The New York Times, “I acknowledge that I made
some significant mistakes” and saying he was “deeply sorry for the problems
this case had caused to my students, my colleagues and my university.”

Dr. Hauser is a leader in the field of animal and human cognition, and in
2006 wrote a well-received book, “Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our
Universal Sense of Right and Wrong.” Harvard’s findings against him, if
sustained, may cast a shadow over the broad field of scientific research
that depended on the particular research technique often used in his
experiments.

Harvard itself had faced growing criticism for not releasing more details of
the inquiry since The Boston
Globe<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/b/the_boston_globe/index.html?inline=nyt-org>reported
on Aug. 10 that the university had found evidence of scientific
misconduct in Dr. Hauser’s lab. On Friday, Michael D. Smith, dean of the
Harvard faculty of arts and sciences, issued a letter to the
faculty<http://harvardmagazine.com/breaking-news/harvard-dean-details-hauser-scientific-misconduct>confirming
the inquiry and saying the eight instances of scientific
misconduct involved problems of “data acquisition, data analysis, data
retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results.” No
further details were given.

The dean’s letter said that the United States attorney’s office for the
District of Massachusetts had begun an inquiry and that Harvard was
cooperating. Because some of the experiments involved federal money,
inquiries are also being conducted by the Office of Research Integrity in
the Department of Health and Human
Services<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/health_and_human_services_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org>and
the Office of Inspector General for the National
Science Foundation<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_science_foundation/index.html?inline=nyt-org>.


A Harvard spokesman, Jeff Neal, said in an e-mail, “We were informed last
week that the U.S. Attorney is looking into this issue.”

Citing those inquiries and Harvard’s rules, Dr. Smith said the report by the
Standing Committee on Professional Conduct would remain confidential. But he
also promised to convene a faculty panel to review Harvard’s policies for
investigating misconduct cases.

According to the letter, three of the misconduct problems occurred in
published articles and the rest were found and corrected before publication.


The sanctions to be imposed on Dr. Hauser are confidential, but could
include involuntary leave, extra oversight, and restrictions on the ability
to apply for grants and supervise students, Dr. Smith said.

The university said in a statement last week that Dr. Hauser or a co-author
had been directed to correct three published papers for which the original
data could not be found. But in two of the challenged papers, Dr. Hauser
redid the experiments and obtained the same results as published. In one of
the journals, his information was titled an “addendum,” not a correction.
The other journal, Science, has not yet decided how to handle the issue.

Dr. Hauser presumably tried to repeat the third experiment as well but if
so, he apparently failed to do so. He wrote this month to the editor of
Cognition, the journal in which it was published, saying he was retracting
the paper, but gave no reason for doing so.

In his statement, Dr. Hauser, who is on a year-long leave, said: “I
acknowledge that I made some significant mistakes and I am deeply
disappointed that this has led to a retraction and two corrections. I also
feel terrible about the concerns regarding the other five cases, which
involved either unpublished work or studies in which the record was
corrected before submission for publication.”

He said he hoped that the scientific community would wait for the federal
investigative agencies to make their final conclusions. He added, “I have
learned a great deal from this process and have made many changes in my own
approach to research and in my lab’s research practices.”

There is a wide spectrum of scientific sins, ranging from wrist-slap
offenses like bad data storage at one end, to data fabrication at the other.
It is still not clear where on this spectrum Dr. Hauser’s errors may fall.
He has admitted only to unspecified "mistakes," not to misconduct.

Many of his experiments involved inferring a monkey’s thoughts or
expectations from its response to a sight or sound. But the technique
required somewhat subjective assessments by the researcher as to whether the
monkey stared longer than usual at a display or turned its head toward a
loudspeaker broadcasting an unexpected sound.

At least some of Dr. Hauser’s students disagreed with his interpretation of
one such experiment three years ago, and reported their reservations to the
Harvard authorities in a letter that was obtained this week by The Chronicle
of Higher Education. It was this letter that spurred a three-year
investigation of Dr. Hauser’s work going back at least as far as 2002.

In view of Dr. Hauser’s prolific output, the finding of missing data in just
three experiments, two of which he was able to repeat with the same results,
is perhaps not greatly surprising. Scientists trying to assess Dr. Hauser’s
work are likely to attach considerable weight to the exact nature of the
problems Dr. Smith says were found by the faculty committee. But separately
from the Harvard inquiry, Dr. Hauser already had several critics in the
scientific community who felt some of his published results were incorrect
or unconvincing.

For his part, Dr. Hauser said that after he finishes taking some time off,
he looked forward to returning to work, “mindful of what I have learned in
this case.” He said, “Research and teaching are my passion.”