The Marc Hauser Case

August 20th, 2010

Sarcastic Image of a Center for Data FabricationToday, the Harvard Crimson reported the results of an investigation by the school into possible scientific misconduct by Marc Hauser, a professor of psychology who studies the cognitive function of primates.  The data and conclusions of several papers published in respected journals had been brought into serious question.  The judgment: Hauser is responsible for eight instances of misconduct in his lab, including the falsification of data.  The dean of the faculty at Harvard has already “moved to fulfill [the school’s] obligations to the funding agencies and scientific community and to impose appropriate sanctions.”

Hmmm….an investigation into scientific misconduct at an Ivy League university involving the possible fabrication of data and the retraction of multiple papers from respected journals in the field.  It’s a good thing that we’ve never had anything like this happen in chemistry.  But, if we did, I’m sure that the chemistry community and the public (i.e., the taxpayers who funded the work) could count on being informed of the results of the investigation, and if misconduct was adjudged to have taken place, that the responsible parties would be disciplined.

7 Responses to “The Marc Hauser Case”

  1. eugene Says:

    I thought this was rather excellent:

    “Hauser, the author of “Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong” whose research focuses on the cognitive function of primates, came under public scrutiny last week after a three-year internal investigation found evidence of scientific misconduct.”

    Of course, if you read the final chapter of the book, it mentions that doing wrong, just feels right and it probably is. Thanks nature.

  2. Paul Says:

    The cardinal sin of science has to be the fabrication/falsification of data. What’s amazing is that even though Harvard’s investigation has found Hauser responsible for such a transgression, it seems that the school isn’t planning to sack him. The dean’s letter to the faculty on Hauser said:

    However, to enlighten those unfamiliar with the available sanctions, options in findings of scientific misconduct include involuntary leave, the imposition of additional oversight on a faculty member’s research lab, and appropriately severe restrictions on a faculty member’s ability to apply for research grants, to admit graduate students, and to supervise undergraduate research. To ensure compliance with the imposed sanctions, those within Harvard with oversight of the affected activities are informed of the sanctions that fall within their administrative responsibilities.

    Am I missing something? Shouldn’t termination be an option, too? Is tenure a license to do anything you want?

  3. Grouper Says:

    This isn’t the only example of Harvard and Harvard alum fabricating data: just look at the outrage over a former Zhuang group member’s (Christine Payne of GA Tech) publication:
    It was retracted in its entirety; how often does that happen! The PI blamed the grad student, took her name of the web site and pretended that she didn’t exist- Dalibor Sames-style.

  4. ImageYou Says:

    In the Payne case, the issue is the number of groups and several companies that got involved trying to reproduce the results. We are talking about hundreds of people here.. and a lot of money went down the drain. While I can’t say for sure, I’m guessing that the ACS editors were drowning in complaints which is why the article was fully retracted. I am not aware if anyone has directly accused the PI of falsification, but it is certainly questionable what happened.

  5. wolfie Says:

    i know Kaspar Hauser

  6. wolfie Says:

    The boss of adhesives’ development of BMW (you remember ? Brooklyn, Manhattan, Washington ? do you ?) once explained to us that chemistry in its entirety is a sequence of three effects :

    patience, patience, patience

  7. wolfie Says:

    (iv) patterns of catalysts or colored precipitates can serve as deterrents to counterfeiting

    JOURNAL OF MATERIALS CHEMISTRY Volume: 20 Issue: 24 Pages: 5117-5122

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