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Harvard Business School Dean Srikant M. Datar clarified and defended the school’s investigation into allegations of research misconduct against HBS professor Francesca Gino in an email to faculty earlier this month.
Datar’s email to HBS faculty, dated Aug. 14, marked the school’s first public statement on Gino’s professional conduct since Data Colada — a data investigation blog — posted allegations of data fraud against Gino in June. Gino is currently on unpaid administrative leave from the school.
Gino then filed a defamation lawsuit against Harvard, Datar, and Uri Simonsohn, Leif D. Nelson, and Joseph P. Simmons — the three business school professors behind Data Colada — on Aug. 2, alleging that they conspired to damage her reputation with false accusations and that the University violated Title IX policies by imposing excessively harsh sanctions.
Gino’s work was previously targeted by a 2021 Data Colada investigation which found that a landmark paper she co-authored in 2012 contained fraudulent data. The paper has since been retracted.
According to Datar’s email, an investigation committee composed of “three senior HBS colleagues” — named as Business School professors Shawn Cole, Teresa Amabile, and Robert Kaplan in Gino’s lawsuit — conducted a “comprehensive evaluation” into Gino’s work over the course of 18 months and “determined that research misconduct had occurred.”
Datar wrote that after reviewing the investigation committee’s results, “I could come to no other conclusion, and I accepted their findings.”
“I did this with personal concern for Professor Gino, but also with complete confidence in the investigative work that had been done and knowing I must do what is right for our institution,” he added.
Gino has vigorously denied misconduct, writing in a public LinkedIn post three weeks ago that she has “never, ever falsified data or engaged in research misconduct of any kind.” Gino’s lawsuit also alleges “the investigation committee also ignored exculpatory evidence, failing to consider or give credence to credible witness testimony.”
Data Colada and Harvard, she wrote in her post, “created and perpetuated a false narrative about my ethics and integrity.”
In his email, Datar also explained his decision to impose sanctions on Gino, which included placing her on administrative leave and removing Gino from her endowed faculty position — the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration.
“I ultimately accepted the investigation committee’s recommended sanctions,” Datar wrote. “The sanctions reflect a shared belief that the misconduct represented a significant violation of academic integrity and that the evidence not only met but surpassed the applicable preponderance of evidence standard.”
Datar wrote he “shared [his] conclusions” with Gino and began the process of placing her on administrative leave and requesting retractions of the four papers in question. Three of the four papers have now been retracted — one in September 2021 and two following Data Colada’s posts in June. The last is set to be retracted in September 2023.
Datar did not address Gino’s lawsuit against the school in his email — citing the ongoing nature of the litigation — but wrote that HBS will “engage thoughtfully and comprehensively” with Gino’s lawsuit, “providing facts in response to her assertions and focusing on the evidence.”
“I know that we have been exceedingly diligent and careful thus far in our process, and I have confidence this will be reflected as the litigation moves forward,” he wrote.
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