Harvard dean: Hauser guilty of scientific misconduct

As  you may know, Professor Marc Hauser of Harvard, who has done well known work on primate behavior and human morality, was accused by Harvard for scientific misconduct.  The university’s investigation, which involved raids on his lab and confiscation of data, took about three years.  There has been lots of speculation about and press coverage of the case, speculation exacerbated by Harvard’s refusal to say anything about the outcome.

Now, however, the university has put out some information.

Below, as reported by Science, is a letter sent Dean Michael Smith of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) to his faculty. He reports that Hauser “was found solely responsible, after a thorough investigation by a faculty member investigating committee, for eight instances of scientific misconduct under FAS standards.”  Three papers are being retracted or corrected, and the malfeasance has been reported not only to federal funding agencies, but to the U.S. Attorney’s office, presumably for possible criminal wrongdoing.

Harvard will not, however, disclose what sanctions it applied to Hauser himself.  Curiously, these sanctions apparently do not include termination:

However, to enlighten those unfamiliar with the available sanctions, options in findings of scientific misconduct include involuntary leave, the imposition of additional oversight on a faculty member’s research lab, and appropriately severe restrictions on a faculty member’s ability to apply for research grants, to admit graduate students, and to supervise undergraduate research.

This can’t be a complete list: surely firing is an option for misconduct.  At any rate, I can’t help but think Smith sent this letter only because his hand was forced by the press.

I take this letter as dispositive of the case, at least for this website: Hauser is guilty of scientific misconduct of an egregious sort.  This is very sad, and please let us neither celebrate nor berate each other for what we said when there was little public information about the case.  Discussions of misconduct or its sanction are fine, accusations of premature judgment are not.

Finally, it is not just Hauser who will suffer as a result of what he did.  Spare a thought for his many students, assistants, and postdocs, whose own work may forever bear the taint of having been done in his lab, who may lose funding that Hauser procured, and who may have great difficulty getting meaningful letters of recommendation for future jobs.

__________________

Dear faculty colleagues,

No dean wants to see a member of the faculty found responsible for scientific misconduct, for such misconduct strikes at the core of our academic values. Thus, it is with great sadness that I confirm that Professor Marc Hauser was found solely responsible, after a thorough investigation by a faculty investigating committee, for eight instances of scientific misconduct under FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] standards. The investigation was governed by our long-standing policies on professional conduct and shaped by the regulations of federal funding agencies. After careful review of the investigating committee’s confidential report and opportunities for Professor Hauser to respond, I accepted the committee’s findings and immediately moved to fulfill our obligations to the funding agencies and scientific community and to impose appropriate sanctions.

Harvard, like every major research institution, takes a finding of scientific misconduct extremely seriously and imposes consequential sanctions on individuals found to have committed scientific misconduct. Rigid adherence to the scientific method and scrupulous attention to the integrity of research results are values we expect in every one of our faculty, students, and staff.

In brief, when allegations of scientific misconduct arise, the FAS Standing Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC) is charged with beginning a process of inquiry into the allegations. The inquiry phase is followed by an investigation phase that is conducted by an impartial committee of qualified, tenured faculty (the investigating committee), provided that the dean, advised by the CPC, believes the allegations warrant further investigation. The work of the investigating committee as well as its final report are considered confidential to protect both the individuals who made the allegations and those who assisted in the investigation. Our investigative process will not succeed if individuals do not have complete confidence that their identities can be protected throughout the process and after the findings are reported to the appropriate agencies. Furthermore, when the allegations concern research involving federal funding, funding agency regulations govern our processes during the investigation and our obligations after our investigation is complete. (For example, federal regulations impose an ongoing obligation to protect the identities of those who provided assistance to the investigation.) When the investigation phase is complete, the investigating committee produces a confidential report describing their activity and their findings. The response of the accused to this report and the report itself are considered by the dean, who then decides whether to accept the findings, and in the case of a finding of misconduct, determine the sanctions that are appropriate. This entire and extensive process was followed in the current case.

Since some of the research in the current case was supported by federal funds, the investigating committee’s report and other supplemental material were submitted to the federal offices responsible for their own review, in accordance with federal regulations and FAS procedures. Our usual practice is not to publicly comment on such cases, one reason being to ensure the integrity of the government’s review processes.

A key obligation in a scientific misconduct case is to correct any affected publications, and our confidentiality policies do not conflict with this obligation. In this case, after accepting the findings of the committee, I immediately moved to have the record corrected for those papers that were called into question by the investigation. The committee’s report indicated that three publications needed to be corrected or retracted, and this is now a matter of public record. To date, the paper, “Rule learning by cotton-top tamarins,” Cognition 86, B15-B22 (2002) has been retracted because the data produced in the published experiments did not support the published findings; and a correction was published to the paper, “Rhesus monkeys correctly read the goal-relevant gestures of a human agent,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274, 1913-1918 (2007). The authors continue to work with the editors of the third publication, “The perception of rational, goal-directed action in nonhuman primates,” Science 317, 1402-1405 (2007). As we reported to one of these editors, the investigating committee found problems with respect to the three publications mentioned previously, and five other studies that either did not result in publications or where the problems were corrected prior to publication. While different issues were detected for the studies reviewed, overall, the experiments reported were designed and conducted, but there were problems involving data acquisition, data analysis, data retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results.

Beyond these responsibilities to the funding agencies and the scientific community, Harvard considers confidential the specific sanctions applied to anyone found responsible for scientific misconduct. However, to enlighten those unfamiliar with the available sanctions, options in findings of scientific misconduct include involuntary leave, the imposition of additional oversight on a faculty member’s research lab, and appropriately severe restrictions on a faculty member’s ability to apply for research grants, to admit graduate students, and to supervise undergraduate research. To ensure compliance with the imposed sanctions, those within Harvard with oversight of the affected activities are informed of the sanctions that fall within their administrative responsibilities.

As should be clear from this letter, I have a deeply rooted faith in our process and the shared values upon which it is founded. Nonetheless, it is healthy to review periodically our long-standing practices. Consequently, I will form a faculty committee this fall to reaffirm or recommend changes to the communication and confidentiality practices associated with the conclusion of cases involving allegations of professional misconduct. To be clear, I will ask the committee to consider our policies covering all professional misconduct cases and not comment solely on the current scientific misconduct case.

In summary, Harvard has completed its investigation of the several allegations in the current case and does not anticipate making any additional findings, statements, or corrections to the scientific record with respect to those allegations. This does not mean, however, that others outside Harvard have completed their reviews. In particular, Harvard continues to cooperate with all federal inquiries into this matter by the PHS Office of Research Integrity, the NSF Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

Respectfully yours,

Michael D. Smith

72 Comments

  1. Diane G.
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s hard to imagine what could possibly be more ironic than an authority on morality convicted of fraud.

    An unfortunate series of parallel revelations amongst the strongly religious come to mind…

    • MosesZD
      Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      True that.

  2. Posted August 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Sad. What was he thinking? I guess personal belief became stronger than the data.

  3. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    After three years of investigation, “premature judgment” this is not. But as I asked on the old thread, “problems involving data acquisition, data analysis, data retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results” isn’t a subset of misconduct or vice versa, so what could possibly be the FAS standards?

    Well, we may never know, and it doesn’t much matter unless the issue changes. The more interesting question is if the retracted paper was seminal? (I take it the other two are corrected respectively correctable.)

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      I’m still quite at a loss as to the specifics of what the problems actually WERE.

      WHICH data was misinterpreted?

      HOW?

      it would be nice if there were some specifics on the articles being considered for modification/retraction.

      as the Dean said, this is a matter of public discourse, and does not affect any other issues of privacy or investigation, so why not detail it for us?

      I’m still very disappointed in how Harvard has handled this so far.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        quoting the Dean:

        “The committee’s report indicated that three publications needed to be corrected or retracted, and this is now a matter of public record.”

        If this is a matter of public record, where can we find this part of the committee’s report?

        this is ALL I frankly am interested in.

        • MadScientist
          Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

          Really? You’re not interested in why it’s *only* 3 publications? You’re not concerned that there may be hundreds of other which are complete rubbish but Harvard doesn’t have the damning evidence because there are no records? After all, in many cases of fraud the first line of defense is “I don’t keep notes”. In the case of Hauser, his problem was that the students did have notes and retained evidence of the fraud, including Hauser’s own notes. Hauser is a has-been and his claims should not be believed by anyone without independent verification.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

            You’re not interested in why it’s *only* 3 publications?

            well, technically they mention 5 others that were *fixed* before publication, or never made it to publication.

            my point is, which data sets, and which interpretations specifically.

            yes, that’s all that fucking matters.

            you’re not concerned that there may be hundreds of other which are complete rubbish but Harvard doesn’t have the damning evidence because there are no records?

            nope.

            you could play that game anywhere, I suppose.

            good luck with that.

            Hauser is a has-been and his claims should not be believed by anyone without independent verification.

            *yawn*

            so you will now reject peer review as insufficient for the rest of us too, or just Hauser?

            • MadScientist
              Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:39 am | Permalink

              Peer review is often not sufficient as the Hauser debacle shows. It is difficult with claims in sociology and behavioral studies though because claims cannot be investigated on a theoretical basis, unlike chemistry or physics where we can rule out claims because they clearly violate well established facts. However, absolutely none of Hauser’s work is to be trusted. You can go ahead and cite him if you want, but don’t be surprised when people question your reasons for accepting his claims. You say you only care about the few which have been definitively struck down in the course of the investigations, but that is a ridiculous stance to take because you will accept his other publications by fiat and without any certainty that those claims were credible.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted August 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

              “absolutely none of Hauser’s work is to be trusted.”

              I guess I have to answer that since my comment implies I can accept them.

              So, the above goes back to the nature of misconduct. Mistakes doesn’t need to be as pervasive as fraud.

              “by fiat”

              I’m with Ichthyic here, by process. You can’t imply there never was one.

              Btw, the papers out now, with Hauser, have been through the process thrice soon. Extra reliable, by any measure.

      • MJ
        Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Look at this:

        http://chronicle.com/article/Document-Sheds-Light-on/123988/

        It details some of the problems.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

          actually, it tells a story.

          It was likely used as a motivating factor in Harvard’s investigating, but doesn’t detail the actual conclusions about specific data sets and interpretations found by the committee.

          thanks though, at least it’s something.

          I assume eventually, the full committee report will be available, and someone will post a copy here.

          • MadScientist
            Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

            I doubt the full report will become public; Harvard’s chief interest is in protecting themselves and avoiding costly litigation with Hauser. Hauser is not the first fraud from Harvard.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

              …or anywhere.

              do you actually have a rational point here?

              …or did you just want to spew?

            • MadScientist
              Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:34 am | Permalink

              @Icthyic: There have been other frauds in Harvard and I do not expect Harvard to act differently in this case and make the report public. The prime interest is not scientific integrity – it never was.

  4. Posted August 20, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Besides this being a sad outcome in general, what consequences does it have for research on primate behaviour? Does this invalidate work others have done, or has it made them waste time and resources on research based on what are now thought to be faulty assumptions?

    I know very little about this field, but as a primate myself I’m curious.

  5. palefury
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I my opinion falsifying data is the most heinous act that a fellow scientist can do. Not only does it demolish any credibility that the scientist had, but also tarnishes the reputation of all those associated with him/her including the institution at which they did their research, and all those in the field who have based work on the fraudulent findings.

    And really how narcissistic does a scientist have to be to value their own reputation above the truth. To go so far as to falsify data in order to support their own hypothesis and worse publish this false data, deliberately misleading others in the field. Truly only a despicable person.

    If a lawyer is guilty of serious misconduct they are disbarred, a MD will have their license to practice revoked. Fraudulent scientists should also lose their current status at not only the institute they work but also be prevented from conducting scientific research entirely.

    What is science if not the search for the truth. People like these go against the very nature of our profession and should not be allowed a second chance to do further damage to the scientific community, or human knowledge as a whole.

    • Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Surely people know that scientific fraud is usually eventually found out? And then one’s life work and reputation gets tossed into the garbage. It’s not very rational.

      • palefury
        Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        Unfortunately, i know of at least one individual who blatantly falsified data (drew some bands onto a western blot with photoshop) and published. Was found out, fired by the institution he worked for, forbidden from getting NIH grants. But still he is a PI of a lab elsewhere and continues to publish (not sure of the validity of his recent publications). The ramifications are not a severe and you would think, at least no in this case.

      • Dunbar
        Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        I doubt most scientific fraud is eventually found out. Fudging a data point is technically fraud and its probably prevalent enough to, say, push a set of data into significance. There are many types of fraud too. Moreover, I’m sure there are people who pathologically and effectively employ fraud in science, just like in any other area in real life.

        • Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          I remember reading an article a while back discussing a study which showed that statistical significance levels were quite often *just slightly* below the common thresholds like p<0.05, p<0.01, p<0.001 (and often enough that it was statistically significant).

          I can't for the life of me find it, though. I suspect it was on Ethics & Science but I can't find any sign of it there.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            that could just be related to the fact that most people, scientists included, typically don’t find negative results as intellectually stimulating as positive.

            hence, there are even journals entirely devoted to publishing negative results to attempt to correct for that bias:

            http://www.jnr-eeb.org/index.php/jnr

            I don’t think there is anything else significant (heh) to conclude from the study you are thinking about.

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

              Very cool link. Thanks, Ich (heh).

            • MJ
              Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

              The issue is that there shouldn’t be statistically more p < .009 studies than there are p < .07 or p < .011. *All* these results are significant (p < .05), so you'd expect all to be published. But the fact that there are lots just under the threshold for p < .01, for instance, indicates data manipulation.

            • MJ
              Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

              Oh yeah, the study is here:

              http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1420-9101.2006.01291.x/full

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

              no, it doesn’t.

              it might suggest it, but it doesn’t *indicate* it.

              that is a conclusion based on the observation of a pattern, which ignores why some data might have traditionally higher p values than others.

              I do recall reading that paper, and I think there were some good discussions of it a while back.

              relating to what I mentioned earlier, though, you might enjoy reading this paper:

              http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0010271

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

              IOW, my objection to that paper was, and is, that it uses a shotgun approach to analyzing statistical probabilities, without accounting for why those probabilities might vary ASIDE from their conclusion.

              this is all very OT from the kind of data manipulation Hauser is accused of, anyway.

            • MJ
              Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

              First, I’d like to retract what I said. I hadn’t read the article, but I had heard about it. I thought it said what I said, but it doesn’t. Its main concern is that when people get p values above a threshold, they say “p = .011″, but when they get them below a threshold, they say “p prob(B)”, which I think is fairly standard– and is roughly equivalent to “suggest”.

            • MJ
              Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

              My above comment was mangled by the comment system. I’m going to try to add in what it chopped out.

              First, I’d like to retract what I said. I hadn’t read the article, but I had heard about it. I thought it said what I said, but it doesn’t. Its main concern is that when people get p values above a threshold, they say “p = .011″, but when they get them below a threshold, they say

              p < .01, even if what they got was p = .0094, thus obscuring the fact that their findings are not much more reliable than the p = .011 study.

              The rest of my comment wasn't important, so forget it.

      • MadScientist
        Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        What’s not very rational? People will rightfully cast doubt on all the work unless the claims have been successfully reproduced by others. For example, look at the case of that fraud at AT&T, Jan Hendrick Sch\”on. Now there was a great career in fraud – no valid claims in his career, so if you cite his work you’ll get a lot of giggles from people.

        • Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          I meant that it’s not very rational to publish fradulent work — assuming (as I do) that it’s likely to eventually be exposed as fraud.

          I suppose fraud happens in all fields, but most fields don’t have peers actively trying to disprove one’s work or a requirement that the results be duplicated independently.

          But I’m just an engineer — what do I know?

          • whyevolutionistrue
            Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            In the fields of ecology and evolution, I think it’s quite unlikely that fraud would be discovered, for most people don’t replicate other people’s work. It’s not molecular biology, where you often have to repeat somebody’s results to get new ones. Who would repeat a long-term field study?

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

              Who would repeat a long-term field study?

              then again…

              Majerus comes to mind.

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

            Agreed that there’s very little incentive to spend time and resources replicating others’ research. Probably only happens when there is already suspicion, etc., but seldom if ever routinely…

          • MadScientist
            Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

            I’ve often complained about the pathetically low standards for publication in chemical journals; you can rehash your mediocre results by changing a few words and this is considered worthy of publication as a different article. I’m one of few referees who actually bothers to work out equations and claims and even look at the cited references. *many* authors throw in volumes of irrelevant references in some bizarre attempt to bulk up the list of references; I have an extremely low opinion of such people and I certainly let the editors know what I think about them. Some of my colleagues even have the attitude that most things should be published because everyone needs those citations to get grants and a job; I’m horrified that they would care more about that than about the quality (or even correctness) of publications.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      But the case is not “falsifying data”. More specifically it is about misconduct so far, not fraud (say).

      • MadScientist
        Posted August 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        And Bill Clinton did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky. Yes, I’ve heard that sort of thing numerous times over the decades. There really is a Tooth Fairy too. That is why people are saying that it is important for Harvard to let the public know how they went about their investigations and so on; otherwise to the wider scientific community, trusting any other of Hauser’s work is simply wishful thinking. Also, from what has been published elsewhere on what went on, I don’t see how anyone can claim that to be “misconduct” and not “fraud”, and yes, Hauser falsified data. So wer’e back to square one – until a reliable source reproduces a claim (and better still the claim is reproduced by a number of reliable sources), *all* of Hauser’s claims must be provisionally rejected.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 22, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          *all* of Hauser’s claims must be provisionally rejected.

          sorry, this is a logic fail.

          we’ve already explained to you why.

  6. Eric MacDonald
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    What a sad day for scientific research, and for the commitments that are at the heart of the scientific project. What a sad day, too, for Marc Hauser, and for his scientific career, which now lies in ruins. Not only does his failure to live up to the critical standards required of everyone who seeks to contribute to the larger human project cast a shadow over his own life, and over the work that he has done, but it sullies the reputation of science and scientists.

    It is important to note, however, that there are such standards, and that any declension from them will be discovered eventually and exposed. This in itself should in the long run strengthen science and other critical disciplines, and expose to ridicule supposed forms of thought to which such standards do not apply, or where such standards as there are are merely subjective or applied with obfuscating inconsistency. It is important to remember, as Dr. Hauser goes through his own private hell, that overzealous attachment to theory, regardless of the evidence, is normative behaviour amongst the religious. It is only where there is evidence that such wrongdoing can be disclosed.

  7. Josh Slocum
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Keeping the sanctions confidential is unacceptable, and it’s insulting for Dean Smith to wax lyrical about his “deeply rooted faith” in Harvard’s investigative processes. Not good enough.

  8. miko
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I think there are a few things at play

    1. The usual pressure to produce exciting results

    2. The culture of academic celebrity at Harvard, which rewards ego and self regard

    3. The subjective aspects of quantifying behavior, which make it prone to bias. The chance of someone outside his lab systematically looking at raw data was very low, as was the chance of his lab members questioning his interpretation of the data (see #2).

    These young scientists were very brave and honest to step up. If history is anything to go by, they will not be rewarded, and have likely created long-term career problems for themselves.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      The chance of someone outside his lab systematically looking at raw data was very low…

      Yes, but, if the details in a previous article are true (that he and a subordinate simultaneously scored the same trials, and that their differing results were patently obvious to said subordinates, who then protested), then think of the hubris involved in assuming one could get away with overruling such justified protests…

      I completely concur with your final paragraph. Sigh.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      yes, society hates the whistleblower almost as much as the criminal.

      *sigh*, indeed.

  9. MadScientist
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    No pity for Hauser here; I hate frauds. Surely his students can get other people to write a letter of recommendation; it would be extremely unfortunate if they only ever worked with Hauser. Nor do I think it would be reasonable for prospective employers to believe that the students did anything wrong; they are also victims. If Harvard’s claims are true that Hauser is solely responsible for the fraud, the students have little to fear; presumably their own publications are free of fraud even though the conclusions may be dubious if they relied on Hauser’s publications. Congratulations to the students who discovered and refused to put up with the nonsense.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      As do we all, I’m sure. But I respect my feelings even more where they are rooted in facts. Misconduct := fraud.

      It can even be _deliberate_ misconduct, say if confirmation bias runs rampant and some primary investigator let it control more than his own work. (Say, supported by prestige.) That is still not fraud as I understand it, which is fabrication (say).

      And, as contra-indication, the papers that came out shows that there were no cause for fraud from the subject itself, it seems sound and alive so far.

      But yes, in any case the poor students have been mistreated, deliberately or not. It takes some extra courage to step up.

      [Though I wish that the disgruntled individual in the original thread had had even more courage, and refrained from venting personal grudge in an open forum. Understandable, but not to be encouraged.]

  10. Ichthyic
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    before it gets entirely removed for some bullshit reason, Marc’s talk at last year’s Darwin Conference I found quite interesting, and had nothing to do with his work on tamarins:

    http://darwin-chicago.uchicago.edu/Videos/Hauser.mov

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      We are not removing Hauser’s talk from our site. What he talked about had nothing to do with the research that was questioned.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        good! I just noticed over the last week that the link was up, then down.

  11. Diane G.
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Hauser as “victim:”

    Scientific dogma, not Hauser is to blame for misconduct

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/strange-tongue/201008/why-hauser-did-it

    Written before today’s revelations…

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      that’s actually not a very good article.

      It assumes in the second paragraph that evolutionary biologists all expect gradualism to be supported by looking at extant species.

      this is not only a strawman, it’s a really, really, stupid thing to say.

      it’s the equivalent of a creationist saying: “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

      think about it.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 20, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        edit: 4th para, not second.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 20, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I agree. None of the comments there were favorable…my favorite:

        I see. Hauser’s (alleged) misconduct – with its awful ongoing consequences for students and associates – could all have been avoided if only he’d read your book about language evolution (and agreed with it).

        I just thought it didn’t take long before someone saw him as a “victim.”

        I’m wondering what his (Hauser’s) second act will be; or if he’ll ever issue a personal response…

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 20, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          I predict he will indeed say something on this matter, will issue an unqualified apology, and then will try to just move on with other work.

          frankly he already has many irons in the fire other than his work with tamarins, so I expect he’ll simply refocus effort there, and hand his tamarin stuff off to one of his grad students.

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 21, 2010 at 12:58 am | Permalink

            Wouldn’t you predict that he’d find it rather difficult to move on?

            I also find it interesting that you assume that the misconduct was limited to one area of his work only. Yes of course, no other areas were specifically called out, but I guess some of us see this as indicative of a larger problem–a moral one, actually.

            I’m trying to be careful here and not offend, because it’s clear you see things differently…I wonder, though, if you would be as generous if this were a person you were less familiar with?

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

              Wouldn’t you predict that he’d find it rather difficult to move on?

              if the outcomes of the funding investigations remain neutral, not at all.

              he still has his position at Harvard, he still had a large body of significant research that has now been thoroughly vetted and come out “clean”.

              I hardly think this is the end of Hauser.

        • GrueBleen
          Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

          Don’t think too badly of Hauser, it was all down to the functioning of his ‘internal Chinese Room’ because, like all of us, he doesn’t have “free will” and so can’t be held responsible for moral failings.

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      Wow it sure doesn’t take long for an apologist cult to appear via spontaneous generation.

  12. Ichthyic
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Wow it sure doesn’t take long for an apologist cult to appear via spontaneous generation.

    or facile hypocrites.

  13. Diane G.
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    This is sounding very much like a case of some of us having more [knowledge of/background with/professional and/or personal relationships with] Hauser than others. It is so human to put things in the best light for those whom we have respected, liked, loved, whatever, beforehand…I’d venture to say that perhaps without that previous connection, which may well include respect for a body of work, that those I’m speaking of might see things differently…

    I’ve been out of academia for a long time, and was only marginally aware of Hauser & his work…my first reaction to the misconduct findings does tend to focus on the seriousness of the ‘infraction’ and to cause me to regard everything that has come from his lab as now under a cloud of suspicion; and to feel something like anger at those who give “the other side” ammunition to say “look, scientists can be crooked, too!” (Scientists are human–stop the presses!)

    What a shame all around…

    But–to echo others, the scientific process of self-correction did ultimately prevail.

    (Ichthyic, I thought MadScientist’s “apologist cult” remark was referring to the that Psychology Today link I posted…)

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:30 am | Permalink

      Yup, you got it. People make up extraordinary excuses.

  14. anonymous, please
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    According to cowardly anonymous sources like me, the sanctions imposed were one year of unpaid leave and a bar (not sure how long) on applying for funding and accepting research students. I heard that even Harvard’s attorneys were unhappy that he didn’t get fired outright. But he didn’t, and that door is closed.

    These young scientists were very brave and honest to step up. If history is anything to go by, they will not be rewarded, and have likely created long-term career problems for themselves.

    They got out of Hauser’s lab 3+ years ago and are enjoying successful graduate careers in other labs at Harvard and/or elsewhere. They are not talking to the media, and afaik nobody even knows their names for sure. No problem.
    btw, we all only know anything about this because an unknown Harvard faculty member leaked an e-mail to the Globe.

    frankly he already has many irons in the fire other than his work with tamarins, so I expect he’ll simply refocus effort there, and hand his tamarin stuff off to one of his grad students.

    Some of the incidents involve data on macaques too, and no more grad students. In any case, the tamarins were all shipped off to Yerkes or some zoo years ago. Before this shit hit the fan his lab was studying dogs (mostly his own dog, I think; here’s its picture on his lab web page; note no info on current/recent research at all.).

    The feeling I get is that his career in scientific research is over forever. But you are correct: he will re-invent himself as celebrity book-writin’ bad-boy Harvard rogue intellectual and do quite well in the long run.
    That sucks, IMO.

    he still had a large body of significant research that has now been thoroughly vetted and come out “clean”.

    You’re a nut. Specific charges were investigated; the committee did nothing like root through and vet his entire scientific output.
    The reason it took 3 years was not because of investigative work; my understanding is that the committee was provided more or less all of the evidence right up front. I don’t actually know why it took them 3 years to finalize the 8 guilty counts (but I bet Dershowitz does).
    And you will never see the committee report. It has been forwarded to the feds for their investigation; when their findings are announced you’ll get all of the details anybody will ever see: not much.

    Thanks, Dr. Coyne, for letting me post this information (if you do).

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Specific charges were investigated; the committee did nothing like root through and vet his entire scientific output.

      once the investigations by the funding organizations are complete, I bet you’ll be eating those words.

      I don’t actually know why it took them 3 years to finalize the 8 guilty counts (but I bet Dershowitz does).

      I can guess that it has to do with, again, coordinating the investigation with various funders.

      I seriously don’t know what your personal gripe is with Hauser, but you’re an ass if you think none of his work stands up on scrutiny.

      He has some of the best designed experiments in behavior I’ve ever seen.

      • Schadenfreudehasser
        Posted August 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Designing them well is one thing, trusting the reported results is another. Isn’t that the problem now?

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 24, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

          look at the studies the report covers.

          HOW were the original discrepancies noticed?

          NOT just by the students; there were reviewers who noted something didn’t match up correctly too.

          nobody has noted anything similar with any of his other work.

          I really do think nobody who is criticizing Hauser here has even READ his damn papers!

          • Schadenfreudehasser
            Posted August 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

            HOW were the original discrepancies noticed?

            NOT just by the students; there were reviewers who noted something didn’t match up correctly too.

            And we know that how?

      • anonymous, please
        Posted August 23, 2010 at 3:36 am | Permalink

        The funding organizations are going to be investigating the possible use of fraudulent data in obtaining federal grants. The data under suspicion are already identified. They will not be going through his CV paper by paper and checking the raw data. You really think people have time for that?

        I can guess that it has to do with, again, coordinating the investigation with various funders.

        Nope. It was an internal investigation. The funding agencies only got involved afterward. Your ignorant guesses are ignorant.

        I seriously don’t know what your personal gripe is with Hauser, but you’re an ass if you think none of his work stands up on scrutiny.

        You’re right; you don’t know my personal gripes with Marc (I have them; believe me), but they don’t enter into it. What don’t you get about this? He has been found guilty of data falsification and/or fabrication. This opens all of his published data to whole new levels of “scrutiny.” Most of it will never be truly vetted.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 24, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          you say this:

          “This opens all of his published data to whole new levels of “scrutiny.””

          but this just agrees with exactly what I said.

          Indeed, all of his work has been under scrutiny, for 3 years now.

          “The funding agencies only got involved afterward.”

          they’ve been involved LONG before the Dean released the letter posted here.

          Seems if there are any other discrepancies with Hauser’s work, they either have already been resolved, or will shortly once the funding agencies release their own reports.

          again, you seem personally tied to this, and you aren’t very convincing in your argument.

          Please, show me where one of Hauser’s published papers has flaws in methods?

          well?

  15. anonymous, please
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    New statement from Hauser:

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/08/marc-hauser-harvard-science-misconduct-/1

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      …which fits with what I responded to your statements in 14.

      If you don’t think ALL of his work is being vetted by funding agencies at this point, you’re an idiot.

      • JP
        Posted August 22, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        Does anyone familiar with NSF or NIH policies know how their review procedures work? If misconduct is reported by a university that relates, say, to a single ongoing grant, are all ongoing grants to the PI investigated? Are past grants also investigated? And if so, how far back?

      • anonymous, please
        Posted August 23, 2010 at 3:36 am | Permalink

        I may be an idiot and an ass, but I’m not wrong. You are.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 24, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

          well, 2 outta three ain’t bad.

          *psst* you’re also wrong.


3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Harvard dean: Hauser guilty of scientific misconduct As  you may know, Professor Marc Hauser of Harvard, who has done well known work on primate behavior and human [...] [...]

  2. [...] Harvard’s fraud case against primatologist Marc Hauser.  Hauser, you will recall, was found guilty by Harvard of eight charges of scientific misconduct, which may have included data fabrication, and was put on leave without pay for a year.  Hauser [...]

  3. [...] Beleaguered psychologist Marc Hauser, who was disciplined by Harvard University for scientific misconduct, has just resigned from his position there.  As the New York Times reports, he was originally given a year’s leave and other punishments, but was not fired.  It’s not clear why he’s resigned now.  His resignation letter, published in the Boston Globe (click to enlarge), says he’s doing interesting work on at-risk teenagers, and has been offered “exciting opportunities in the private sector.” [...]

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