Scientific Community Considers Academic Consequences of Hauser's Misconduct

Following the exposure of psychology professor Marc D. Hauser’s multiple instances of academic misconduct, the scientific community has quietly set out to review the relevant literature that may have been affected by the researchers’ faulty work.

Last month, a three-year Harvard investigation found Hauser—considered a trailblazer in the field of animal psychology—responsible for eight counts of misconduct and questioned the validity of three academic articles. Though the report recommended the retraction of one of Hauser’s articles, it made no mention of the remainder of his works.

With a federal investigation now underway, much of Hauser’s research has been called into question—and with it, the annals of literature that have grown out of it.

In response, the Psychology Department at Harvard has set in motion a project to review Hauser’s work and to determine the areas of his groundbreaking research that can be salvaged.

The task is daunting. In the last 10 years alone, Hauser has published 143 articles and four books, work that has helped form the foundation for an entirely new field of science.

“It creates a lot of uncertainty for people in those fields,” said a Harvard psychology professor who asked to remain anonymous, stating that the situation is still evolving. “They may begin to worry about whether they can trust other findings from that lab.”

INTEGRITY OF THE SCIENCE

After concluding its internal investigation, Harvard passed the case over to the federal Office of Research Integrity, which will conduct an independent investigation that could take over a year.

The dual investigations are fact-finding operations to determine if and where fault lies. But professors said for the scientific community, the reports only brush the surface of a lengthy process to cleanse the scientific record of the effects of Hauser’s “misconduct.”

“Read my lips,” Psychology Department Chair Susan E. Carey ’64 said of the task before her and the community. “This is going to unfold over years.”

The department established a committee to begin a process that could include combing through decades of research.

“We are starting a process in collaboration with the animal cognition community about how to deal with this,” Carey said. “Clearing the record is the way you deal with the integrity of the science.”

Carey said that the department has also assumed the responsibility of vindicating any department members—students and colleagues alike—who may have worked with Hauser in the past.

“They’re being damaged by guilt by association,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to figure out a process by which the field as a whole can separate the good work from the tainted work.”

According to his curriculum vitae, Hauser has advised 24 Ph.D. students and overseen 15 post doctoral students. The CV lists 221 published papers authored or co-authored by him.

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