Despite Scandal, Hauser To Teach at Harvard Extension School

Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard psychology professor who took leave after University investigators said he was responsible for scientific misconduct, will teach two courses at the Harvard Extension School this academic year even though he is facing a federal inquiry.

Dean of Continuing Education and University Extension Michael Shinagel confirmed with the University that it was “appropriate” for Hauser, whose research sits at the intersection between cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary biology, to teach at the Extension School this year, according to Extension School spokeswoman Linda A. Cross. She added that it is “not uncommon for teachers on leave from [the Faculty of Arts and Sciences] for various reasons” to teach at the Extension School.

“His course is a popular one, attracting strong interest and high ratings from students,” Shinagel said in a statement provided by Cross. “The Extension School does not sponsor faculty research and Professor Hauser is not currently supervising Extension School student research."

Hauser will teach Psychology E-1153: “Cognitive Evolution” this fall and Psychology E-1006: “The Moral Sense: From Genes to Law” in the spring.

“I have never taught at the Extension School and am keen to extend my reach of teaching experiences,” Hauser said in an e-mail to The Crimson.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences are required to teach undergraduate and graduate courses and have no obligation to teach at the Extension School, according to FAS spokesman Jeff Neal. Being on leave only relieves a faculty member of their teaching obligations at the College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, he said in an e-mail.

Some scientists say it is inappropriate for Hauser to continue teaching at Harvard, in any capacity.

“One view of teaching is that you are an ambassador for the science you are teaching and for the institution at which you are teaching,” Gerry Altmann, the editor-in-chief of Cognition, a scientific journal which recently retracted an article Hauser published in 2002, wrote in an e-mail. “I personally do not believe that someone who is found guilty of misconduct is ambassador material.”

Altmann wrote in a blog post Friday that he believes a significant portion of the data presented in the Cognition article was intentionally fabricated. While he emphasized the his conclusion “is just conjecture,” he wrote using fabricated data “to deceive the field into believing something for which there was in fact no evidence at all” is “the worst form of academic misconduct.”

But other scientists in the field argued Hauser’s scientific misconduct should not preclude him from teaching at the Extension School.

“Without knowing the exact specifics of the case, what I would say is if you want to chase someone out of the field forever, that doesn’t seem like the right idea,” said Michael S. Landy, a psychology professor at New York University who criticized Harvard for its lack of transparency regarding the nature of Hauser’s misconduct. "That’s just hurting that person and the field. Seems to me that there has to be a middle ground."

Hauser’s fall class, which can be taken either online or in-person at William James Hall, has attracted student interest. More than 60 students have enrolled in the course as of Friday, making it the fifth most popular psychology course offered this semester at the Extension School, according to websites that list Extension School course enrollments.

Hauser’s leave follows a three-year investigation into allegations of research misconduct in his lab. FAS Dean Michael D. Smith wrote in a letter to the Faculty last Friday that Hauser was found “solely responsible” for eight instances of scientific misconduct involving the collection, analysis, and storage of data and the reporting of research methods and results. Without naming specific actions taken against Hauser, Smith said that he did “impose appropriate sanctions,” which he said could include forced leave and increased oversight and limitation of research.

Following Smith’s letter, Hauser released a statement in which he apologized for “some significant mistakes” and said he has made changes in his research practices.

“Research and teaching are my passion,” Hauser said in the statement. “After taking some time off, I look forward to getting back to my work, mindful of what I have learned in this case.”

—Staff writer Sofia E. Groopman can be reached at segroopm@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Naveen N. Srivatsa can be reached at srivatsa@fas.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: August 31, 2010

An earlier version of the Aug. 27 news article "Despite Scandal, Hauser To Teach at Harvard Extension School" incorrectly referred to the dean of continuing education and University extension as Michael J. Shinagel. In fact, he has no middle initial.

Tags