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Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, facing possible tenure revocation after allegations of data fraud, rolled out a two-pronged defense against her detractors at the end of September — launching a public website and emailing a letter to HBS faculty.
Following a 18-month investigation into potential academic misconduct, the University formally began a review of Gino’s tenure in July. The investigation was sparked by a series of posts by quantitative analysis blog Data Colada alleging that four of Gino’s papers contained falsified data.
Just days after the University informed her of its review, Gino filed a $25 million lawsuit against Harvard, HBS Dean Srikant M. Datar, and Data Colada bloggers Uri Simonsohn, Leif D. Nelson, and Joseph P. Simmons, alleging a conspiracy to defame her and gender discrimination by the University.
In a letter obtained by The Crimson that was emailed to HBS faculty Friday, Gino criticized HBS administrators for their handling of the allegations against her.
“I am writing you today to break my silence,” Gino wrote. “Making the decision to sue my own institution was devastating. But I was left with no alternative, as I will share more about here. I am innocent. And in the spirit of Veritas, I need to right this wrong.”
This email coincided with the launch of Gino’s new website about the case, “francesca-v-harvard.org.” On the website, Gino accuses HBS of negligence and misconduct and of conspiring with Data Colada to defame her — some of Gino’s first public statements since her tenure review began.
“It has been shattering to watch my career being decimated and my reputation completely destroyed,” Gino wrote on her website. “It has been hard to see how this situation impacted those around me - my family, my mentors, my collaborators and my students.”
“The record needs to be corrected. This website is my attempt to do so,” she added. “Let that correction begin with this simple and unambiguous statement: I absolutely did not commit academic fraud.”
In the letter and website, Gino claimed changes to HBS’ research misconduct policies prevented her from adequately defending herself against allegations of data fraud.
She criticized Harvard for only allowing her to consult with two advisers throughout the investigation process and allowing her just weeks to respond to the evidence against her — which she said isolated her from those who could help defend her and prevented her from mounting a full defense.
“Data Colada had years to put together their allegations, HBS and its outside consultants had months to do their investigation, and yet I had only a few weeks to digest it all and respond,” Gino wrote to her colleagues. “All this while teaching and performing my regular faculty duties. And remember: I had no expert help — not one data analyst, IT expert, or statistician.”
HBS spokesperson Brian C. Kenny declined to comment on Gino’s allegations. Simonsohn, Nelson, and Simmons did not respond to a request for comment.
On Sept. 16, Data Colada published its first public statements on the substance of the lawsuit — a blog post summarizing several exhibits in the filings against them. The exhibits detailed three retraction emails sent by Harvard research integrity officers to academic journals. Each letter included analysis from Data Colada and an external forensic firm hired by Harvard.
In their post, Data Colada wrote that the retraction notices support the blog’s earlier allegations against Gino.
“For all four studies, the forensic firm found consequential differences between the earlier and final versions of the data files, such that the final versions exhibited stronger effects in the hypothesized direction than did the earlier versions,” the bloggers wrote.
Gino, however, claimed that the analysis contained in HBS’ retraction notices was misleading and did not indicate research misconduct.
“HBS quoted selectively from its forensics consultants — and pulled in unattributed extended verbatim quotes from Data Colada. HBS circulated the resulting mash-up with no statement of authorship — no person or team taking either credit or responsibility,” she wrote.
“Notably, the mash-up selectively omits crucial provisions that the professional data analysts included, such as the fact that without the original data, no conclusion of research misconduct can be made.”
In addition to her accusations against HBS, Gino wrote that Data Colada’s allegations are “false and defamatory.” Gino accused the blog of treating her unfairly by declining to share their investigation with her before approaching HBS, which she said went against Data Colada’s typical review procedures.
Over the next few weeks, Gino plans to continue responding to Data Colada’s findings — including a more thorough response to their Sept. 16 blog post. She wrote that she stands by her decision to sue the University.
“Harvard has ruined my career, wrongfully,” Gino wrote. “The only way to right this wrong is for me to sue.”
—Staff writer Adelaide E. Parker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on X @adelaide_prkr.
—Staff writer Jennifer Y. Song can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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