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Harvard Faculty Dean Confirms Misconduct in Hauser's Lab

Michael D. Smith confirmed eight instances of scientific misconduct

Updated 5:15 p.m. Saturday

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith publicly confirmed for the first time in a letter to the Faculty that a committee had found psychology professor Marc D. Hauser "solely responsible" for eight instances of scientific misconduct in his laboratory.

"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," Smith wrote.

Hauser, the author of "Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong" whose research focuses on the cognitive function of primates, came under public scrutiny last week after a three-year internal investigation found evidence of scientific misconduct.

Citing confidentiality policies, Smith did not reveal what sanctions Hauser would face, only outlining possible punishments such as “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.”

Hauser will be on leave for the 2010-2011 school year. An automated email reply from Hauser’s inbox stated he was “working furiously on a book, and thus will only be checking e-mail irregularly.”

According to the letter, the sanctions that Hauser faces may go beyond Harvard. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts is inquiring into the matter, as are the Office of Research Integrity at the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation's Inspector General.

Three published articles containing Hauser's research had either been retracted or would be edited to remove unsupported findings, Smith said. In the five other instances, falsified information did not make it into published articles.

In the wake of the findings of misconduct against a well-known professor, Smith announced he would form a committee to review the Faculty's "communication and confidentiality practices" after a finding of misconduct. The investigation of Hauser's lab was first revealed by the Boston Globe—before the University publicly acknowledged any investigation.

From the beginning of the letter, Smith did not hide his sadness at such a serious finding against one of his 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," he wrote. "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."

—Check TheCrimson.com for updates.

—Staff writer William N. White can be reached at wwhite@fas.harvard.edu.

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