The Harvard investigation that found Marc Hauser had committed scientific misconduct has finally been released.

The Harvard investigation that found Marc Hauser had committed scientific misconduct has finally been released.

Rick Friedman/Corbis

Harvard Misconduct Investigation of Psychologist Released

Four years after Harvard University completed its misconduct investigation of famed psychologist Marc Hauser, the institution’s report is finally out—thanks to a reporter at The Boston Globe who sought the document through a Freedom of Information Act request. As the Globe reported earlier today, the report “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 Office of Research Integrity (ORI) found Hauser guilty of research misconduct in 2012; he had resigned the previous year from his faculty position at Harvard, where he studied humans and monkeys to discern the biology of cognition and morality. But Harvard had never released the results of its investigation: more than 80 pages stamped “CONFIDENTIAL” and submitted, as is the norm for university investigations, to ORI. 

The Department of Health and Human Services also shared the report with Science earlier today in response to a FOIA request. The report is available in two parts, here and here. The pages, with a number of redactions, detail an exhaustive investigation by the university. Three committee members met 18 times to sift through evidence, interviewed 10 people, and met with Hauser and his attorney twice for a total of 9 hours. “We took as our charge to begin with an open mind,” the investigators wrote in their report.

What they found was damning. For a paper in Cognition in 2002, the investigators noted that published results involving cotton-top tamarins did not match the videotape containing the raw data. “The results of the experiment were therefore knowingly and falsely reported by Prof. Hauser,” they concluded.  That paper has been retracted. In versions of manuscripts for another project submitted to Cognition, Science, and Nature, Hauser claimed that “16 out of 16 subjects” responded more to poor grammar than correct grammar, when in truth 13 monkeys had responded to a greater degree. Both results were statistically significant, but “misrepresenting the actual experimental data to exaggerate the strength of results is falsification,” the investigators wrote. Another study with rhesus monkeys showed discrepancies between the “research record” and the 2007 published paper, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  

“We found evidence that Prof. Hauser repeatedly valued the primacy and impact of his ideas above an accurate representation of his scientific methods and the integrity of the data obtained to support them,” concluded the three investigators, described as “peer faculty.” Their names, like those of the people they interviewed, were redacted from the report.

Hauser reached a voluntary settlement with ORI in which he neither admitted nor denied committing research misconduct. He agreed to have any research supported by the Public Health Service supervised for 3 years. Hauser now lives on Cape Cod and raised eyebrows by publishing a book on human behavior, Evilicious: Cruelty = Desire + Denial, last year.  He continues to write scientific review papers on language, cognition, and evolution, and, according to his blog, works with at-risk youth.

*Correction, 31 May: This article has been corrected to note that the report was provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, not ORI.