Harvard reviews Hauser’s work – but is the purpose investigation or vindication?

Harvard is reviewing all “relevant” work by Marc Hauser . But there is a large element of “damage control” and “vindication” of Hauser’s co-workers which is mixed in with the investigation. It is to be hoped that they will be able to resist the temptation to stand on the position that if further misconduct by others cannot be rigorously proven then these others can be acquitted. Now that Hauser’s misconduct has been established the onus of proof shifts – and must do so. The default position must be that all his work is now tainted unless shown beyond reasonable doubt to be otherwise.

The focus must be on investigation and not on a pre-planned vindication or on “rescuing” the money spent if the work is suspect.

http://www.thecrimson.com/

With a federal investigation now underway, much of Hauser’s research has been called into question—and with it, the annals of literature that have grown out of it. In response, the Psychology Department at Harvard has set in motion a project to review Hauser’s work and to determine the areas of his groundbreaking research that can be salvaged.

Cotton-top tamarind

In the last 10 years alone, Hauser has published 143 articles and four books, work that has helped form the foundation for an entirely new field of science. “It creates a lot of uncertainty for people in those fields,” said a Harvard psychology professor who asked to remain anonymous, stating that the situation is still evolving. “They may begin to worry about whether they can trust other findings from that lab.”

The department established a committee to begin a process that could include combing through decades of research. “We are starting a process in collaboration with the animal cognition community about how to deal with this,” Carey said. “Clearing the record is the way you deal with the integrity of the science.” Carey said that the department has also assumed the responsibility of vindicating any department members—students and colleagues alike—who may have worked with Hauser in the past.

According to his curriculum vitae, Hauser has advised 24 Ph.D. students and overseen 15 post doctoral students. The CV lists 221 published papers authored or co-authored by him. And in an academic web of peer research, hundreds of published articles cite and work off of Hauser’s research. And in an academic web of peer research, hundreds of published articles cite and work off of Hauser’s research.

Hauser has made a name for himself by executing novel research techniques in the field of animal cognition. His work with primates and cotton-top tamarinds—the subject of Hauser’s only article to have been retracted—has involved a unique set of research skills and costly access to the animals.

“You don’t want to throw out about two decades of groundbreaking work, but you also don’t want to build a science on shaky ground,” said the psychology professor. “How do we rescue millions of dollars of research?” the individual added.

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One Response to “Harvard reviews Hauser’s work – but is the purpose investigation or vindication?”

  1. Researchers show that peer review is easily corrupted « The k2p blog Says:

    […] (This could have been written about Marc Hauser — https://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/harvard-reviews-hausers-work-but-is-the-purpose-investigation-…) […]

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