Misconduct at Harvard or is it scientific fraud?

Harvard does not want to say very much but the story was broken by the Boston Globe.

Harvard University psychologist Marc Hauser — a well-known scientist and author of the book “Moral Minds’’ — is taking a year-long leave after a lengthy internal investigation found evidence of scientific misconduct in his laboratory.

Scientist Marc Hauser’s studies include work on the cognitive and evolutionary underpinnings of language.

As reported in Nature:

A 3-year investigation has found evidence of scientific misconduct in publications by prominent Harvard University psychologist Marc Hauser, the Boston Globe reports today.

Hauser’s research, which has frequently been highlighted in newspapers and on television, has addressed the evolutionary roots of human language, mathematical ability, and morality. His 2006 book, Moral Minds, argued that the human brain is programmed to embrace certain moral principles. Earlier this year, Hauser co-authored a study that found no impact of religion on how humans respond to moral dilemmas (for more, see ‘Morals don’t come from God’).

But by then, Hauser’s lab was already the subject of a Harvard University investigation. According to the Globe article, the trouble centers on a 2002 paper published in the journal Cognition (subscription required). Hauser was the first author on the paper, which found that cotton-top tamarins are able to learn patterns – previously thought to be an important step in language acquisition. The paper has been retracted, for reasons which are reportedly unclear even to the journal’s editor, Gerry Altmann.

Two other papers, a 2007 article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B and a 2007 Science paper, were also flagged for investigation. A correction has been published on the first, and Science is now looking into concerns about the second. And the Globe article highlights other controversies, including a 2001 paper in the American Journal of Primatology, which has not been retracted although Hauser himself later said he was unable to replicate the results. Findings in a 1995 PNAS paper were also questioned by an outside researcher, Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York at Albany, who reviewed the original data and said he found “not a thread of compelling evidence” to support the paper’s conclusions.

This sounds more like fraud.

Not for the first time at Harvard and surely not the last.

How many “peers” have been duped along the way?

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