Harvard investigation finds psychologist Marc Hauser falsified data in six federally funded studies

September 15, 2012

In 2010, a Harvard University investigation concluded that psychologist Marc Hauser had engaged in scientific misconduct. Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity confirmed the findings, revealing that Hauser fabricated and falsified methods and data in six federally funded studies. The news brought closure to those who questioned whether Hauser was guilty of any wrongdoing. But because neither investigation indicates which of Hauser's hundreds of publications were investigated, many researchers remain uncertain about how to regard the rest of his work.

Hauser, whose research interests included the evolution of morality and cognition in non-human primates, resigned in August 2011 after a three-year investigation by his institution found he was responsible for eight counts of scientific misconduct. The alarm was raised by some of his students, who disagreed with Hauser's interpretations of experiments that involved the somewhat subjective procedure of working out a monkey's thoughts based on its response to some sight or sound.

Hauser fabricated data, manipulated results in multiple experiments, and described how studies were conducted in factually incorrect ways, according to the findings of a federal research oversight agency posted online Wednesday.

The report provides the greatest insight yet into the problems that triggered a three-year internal university investigation that concluded in 2010 that Hauser, a star professor and public intellectual, had committed eight instances of scientific misconduct. The document, which will be published in the Federal Register Thursday, found six cases in which Hauser engaged in research misconduct in work supported by the National Institutes of Health. One paper was retracted and two were corrected, and other problems were found in unpublished work.

Source: Carolyn Y. Johnson, "Former Harvard professor Marc Hauser fabricated, manipulated data, US says," Boston Globe, September 05, 2012, Alok Jha, "False positives: fraud and misconduct are threatening scientific research, The Guardian (UK), September 13, 2012 and Siri Carpenter, "Government Sanctions Harvard Psychologist," Science,


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