Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Marc Hauser resigns from Harvard

with 14 comments

Marc Hauser, the Harvard psychology professor who retracted a paper last year following a university investigation, has resigned his post. As the Boston Globe’s Carolyn Johnson, who broke the original Hauser retraction story, reports:

Marc Hauser, a well-known Harvard psychology professor who has been on leave since an internal investigation found him guilty of eight counts of scientific misconduct, is leaving the university.

“Marc Hauser has resigned his position as a faculty member, effective August 1, 2011,” Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal wrote in an e-mail statement today.

Hauser was a popular professor known for his research and writing on the evolutionary underpinnings of morality and the traits that make the human mind distinct from those of other animals. He took a leave of absence after a faculty investigating committee concluded a three-year investigation — first reported last August by the Globe. But he was due to return to the university this fall, a prospect that made many of his former colleagues uncomfortable.

A large majority of the Harvard psychology faculty had voted not to allow him to teach this year, and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith had supported the decision.

“While on leave over the past year, I have begun doing some extremely interesting and rewarding work focusing on the educational needs of at-risk teenagers. I have also been offered some exciting opportunities in the private sector,” Hauser wrote in a resignation letter to the dean, dated July 7. “While I may return to teaching and research in the years to come, I look forward to focusing my energies in the coming year on these new and interesting challenges.”

David Dobbs has also been doing good analysis of the case at Neuron Culture.

Hauser joins two other scientists who recently left positions following retractions and investigations into their work: Jatinder Ahluwalia, who is out at the University of East London, and Carsten Carlberg, who is no longer at the University of Luxembourg (but who still has his job at the University of Eastern of Finland, as far as we know).

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 19th, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Comments
  • Pete July 19, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Surprised that the Globe story doesn’t mention the recent “replication” of some of Hauser’s contested data..

    • LNV July 20, 2011 at 9:27 am

      Can you elaborate on the replications??

    • Herman July 20, 2011 at 11:18 am

      Hauser “replicated” his own study. Most would not consider it a replication until someone else replicates the result. He has a major conflict of interest, to say the least.

      Besides that, maybe be guessed right but cheated to get the original result. Replication changes nothing about the accusations which, apparently, are true.

      • LNV July 20, 2011 at 9:37 pm

        Sorry Ivan, I should have been more specific. As Herman points out, many of us would like to see an independent lab replicate Hauser’s studies.

  • V July 20, 2011 at 7:25 am

    There is something so odd about this guy who writes books about how we’re genetically programmed to be moral and fair, all the while committing fraud to get ahead of his own competition.

    Now he wants to help troubled teens. That’s …. nice?

    This whole thing is very strange. I hope his collaborators who acted in good faith aren’t too tarnished by the scandal.

  • reddwarf1 July 21, 2011 at 2:48 am

    scandal like this can set back genuine research, as people are more reluctant to become involved. need more in depth investigation at the planning stage.

  • Conrad T Seitz MD July 21, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Harvard has its good and bad points.
    By the way, does anyone remember Mendel’s experiments with corn that establshed the basis of genetics? Statistical analysis of his results concluded that they were impossibly good. Apparently, he cherry-picked his results because he knew nothing about statistics… but he was right, in fact he was prescient; he studied eight traits, each of them on a different one of corn’s eight chromosomes. No trouble with recombination there.
    Dear V: are you that because you’re a Thomas Pynchon fan? Just guessing.

    • Klaus July 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

      Corn?

      • Brendan McKay July 26, 2011 at 12:52 am

        It was peas that Mendel worked with. Also, it is by no means universally accepted that Mendel cooked his results. An example of a dissenting view is C. E. Novitski, “On Fisher’s Criticism of Mendel’s Results With the Garden Pea”. Genetics 166 (3): 1133–1136. doi:10.1534/genetics.166.3.1133.

      • plemplem July 26, 2011 at 10:22 am

        Barbara McClintock was the corn genetics lady.

  • Conrad T Seitz MD July 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Sorry, peas. I just think it was fortuitous that he picked eight (I think) traits, each of which was on a different chromosome. Personally, I think that–having no knowledge of statistics–he did a lot more experiments than he reported. Then he picked the ones that came out the best. Just guessing. Wouldn’t you do the same? That is, if you didn’t know that your results were highly significant already.

  • Saiwing Yeung August 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    interesting blog! I am wondering if you would consider adding a psychology/cognitive science category (so that I can subscribe to that feed)? Right now the closest I see are psychiatry and neuroscience. Neither describes this (Hauser) kind of research very well. Thank you in advance!

    • ivanoransky August 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm

      Done. Thanks for the suggestion. We’re still categorizing all of the posts, so stay tuned.

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