Harvard Professor Marc Hauser Replicates Findings in Study Cited in Misconduct Investigation

The journal Science will publish on Friday a replication of a 2007 ­study co-authored by Psychology Professor Marc D. Hauser, who was found to be “solely responsible” for eight charges of scientific misconduct in a University investigation last August.

Hauser’s original work, which studied the ability of animals to perceive other animals’ intentions based on their actions, was one of the three studies that came under question following the controversy regarding his research.

The new clarification, which confirms the findings from the 2007 report, concludes a long discussion on the integrity of the original research,  which Hauser conducted with Justin N. Wood, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California.

As a result of the investigation into Hauser’s conduct, Wood learned that data was missing from the 2007 study, and notified Science in July 2010.

The current results “replicate those reported in the original paper in terms of statistical significance,” according to a statement written by Science’s staff.

In the statement, Science said that the research was replicated only for this particular study, and has no bearing on the reliability of Hauser’s other research.

The original experiments were conducted on three different types of primates: cotton-top tamarins, chimpanzees, and rhesus monkeys.

According to the Science report, Wood later discovered that “there were only summary data, as opposed to raw data, for the rhesus monkey experiments because the researcher who performed the experiments inadvertently failed to archive the original field notes.”

An internal examination performed by the University determined that the hand-written records of the original raw data for the rhesus monkeys were unintentionally discarded, according to the letter Wood submitted to Science.

After realizing that the data for the study was lost, Wood and Hauser began re-running their experiments on rhesus monkeys.

According to Ginger Pinholster, director of the Office of Public Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science, the journal carefully peer reviewed the new conclusions in the wake of realizations of Hauser’s misconduct.

“It was a pretty painstaking re-review process,” Pinholster said. “We wouldn’t publish a replication unless we felt that the peer reviewers had done a very thorough job and their assessment was the authors had sufficiently replicated the original finding.”

Pinholster further emphasized that the judgments of the peer review process only apply to the replication of the 2007 study.

“We did not make any effort to raise any questions about Hauser’s broader body of work,” she said.

Pinholster declined to comment on the specific evaluations the replicated study underwent before publication, saying that there is a “long-standing policy” of not disclosing those details.

Hauser could not be reached for comment.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumarcollege.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at kwucollege.harvard.edu.

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