Marc Hauser actively manipulated data

Marc Hauser – and his supporters – have generally maintained that his misconduct was – at worst – negligence and certainly inadvertent. But the Boston Globe today reports on an internal Harvard report (obtained under FoI) which details wrongdoings rather more deliberate and sinister than Hauser and his friends have ever acknowledged or admitted.

The report is fairly damning.

Boston Globe:

But a copy of an internal Harvard report released to the Globe under the Freedom of Information Act now paints a vivid picture of what actually happened in the Hauser lab and suggests it was not mere negligence that led to the problems. 

The 85-page report details instances in which Hauser changed data so that it would show a desired effect. It shows that he more than once rebuffed or downplayed questions and concerns from people in his laboratory about how a result was obtained. The report also describes “a disturbing pattern of misrepresentation of results and shading of truth” and a “reckless disregard for basic scientific standards.”

A three-member Harvard committee reviewed 40 internal and external hard drives, interviewed 10 people, and examined original video and paper files that led them to conclude that Hauser had manipulated and falsified data.

Their report was sent to the federal Office of Research Integrity in 2010, but it was not released to the Globe by the agency until this week. ……… Much has been redacted from the report, including the identities of those who did the painstaking investigation and those who brought the problems to light.

Hauser, reached by phone Thursday, said he is focused on his work with at-risk youth on Cape Cod and declined to comment on the report.

The manipulation reported dates back at least to 2002 where he reported (presumably manufactured) data on a videotape of monkey responses which did not exist. In 2005 he altered data to make what was statistically insignificant become significant. Also in 2005, he discarded data after it had been found by a subordinate to have been inconsistent (presumably manipulated). Later, he tried to claim his mail ordering the discarding of the data as evidence of his innocence:

“These may not be the words of someone trying to alter data, but they could certainly be the words of someone who had previously altered data: having been confronted with a red highlighted spreadsheet showing previous alterations, it made more sense to proclaim disappointment about ‘errors’ and suggest recoding everything than, for example, sitting down to compare data sets to see how the ‘errors’ occurred,”

In 2007,

 a member of the laboratory wanted to recode an experiment involving rhesus monkey behavior, due to “inconsistencies” in the coding. “I am getting a bit pissed here. There were no inconsistencies!” Hauser responded, explaining how an analysis was done. 

Later that day, the person resigned from the lab. 

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