The Waiting Game

With the federal investigation pending, Hauser and Harvard hold their breath

Three years ago, Harvard investigators began collecting videos and computer files from the lab of Marc D. Hauser, the popular psychology professor and best-selling author.

But the investigation was kept under wraps by the University until, facing media scrutiny, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith confirmed in August that an internal investigation had found Hauser “solely responsible for eight counts of scientific misconduct.”

As speculation abounded on the type of “scientific misconduct”—which Harvard defines as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism—the professor took a leave of absence and retreated to his home on Cape Cod to work on his new book.

Because Hauser received federal funding for his research, the committee in charge of the Harvard investigation turned over its findings to the Office of Research Integrity in accordance with federal policy.

Now, despite a condemning internal investigation, Harvard finds itself in the unfamiliar position of waiting for another body to dictate the future of a professor who was once a prized member of its faculty.



Smith has been silent on the details of Hauser’s case since confirming the “eight counts of misconduct.”

But he said at the time that ORI regulations dictated what information could be released.

“Funding agency regulations govern our process during the investigation and our obligations after our investigation is complete,” he wrote in an Aug. 20 letter to the Faculty.

The investigation found fault in three of Hauser’s published articles, leading to the retraction of one and the correction of two others to edit or remove unsupported findings, Smith said. In five other instances, the studies called into question either remained unpublished or were corrected before publication.

Beyond these findings, the University has not commented on the federal investigation or the precise nature of Hauser’s misconduct.

“Our investigative process will not succeed if individuals do not have complete confidence that their identities can be protected,” Smith wrote at the time.

Following calls for greater transparency, Smith said in the letter that he would create a committee to review Harvard’s policies regarding academic misconduct and the level of secrecy surrounding the process. The University’s Office of the Provost has since led the committee.

“The Provost’s office determined that the issues of concern were not unique to the FAS and established a committee to review communications and confidentiality policies related to potential instances of academic misconduct from a University-wide perspective,” wrote FAS spokesperson Jeff Neal in a statement. The committee is expected to make recommendations to the Provost this summer, he said.



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