Marc Hauser resigns from Harvard

July 22, 2011 • 10:11 am

Beleaguered psychologist Marc Hauser, who was disciplined by Harvard University for scientific misconduct, has just resigned his position there.  As the New York Times reports, he was originally given a year’s leave and other punishments, but was not fired.  It’s not clear why he’s resigned now.  His resignation letter, published in the Boston Globe (click to enlarge), says he’s doing interesting work on at-risk teenagers, and has been offered “exciting opportunities in the private sector.”

Hauser is still under investigation by the federal government, presumably because his research on primates was sponsored by federal grants.

15 thoughts on “Marc Hauser resigns from Harvard

  1. The resignation letter seems a bit odd. And why resign now? After all, it seemed like Hauser’s standing might have been on the mend. He had been able to duplicate the results of one of the questioned studies. Perhaps hes resigning ahead of some revelations.

    Another question: Who goes from being a renowned scientist, a leading primate behavior researcher, cognitive scientist, writing papers on the evolution of language with Noam Chomsky, and publishing books complete with dust jacket recommendations from Steven Pinker and Peter singer to ‘work focusing on the educational needs of at-risk teenagers’ ?

    1. Gee, Hauser could duplicate his own study? It doesn’t matter how many times he claims to be able to duplicate a study, what matters is that an independent investigator can do so, especially when a scientist is accused of fraud. I doubt there will be any further revelations coming from Harvard – such actions would lead to lawsuits claiming defamation since no case was ever prosecuted. As for the federal investigation – well, that depends on who’s leading the investigation and what their motivation is for pursuing it.

      I think it’s peculiar that Hauser’s letter of resignation was printed in the newspaper.

      1. I just looked at it one more time, in case it was an acrostic, like the famous letter that Arnold Schwarzenegger sent to the California State Assembly.

      2. I always figured that the fact that he wasn’t fired suggested that the board concluded that he wasn’t actively working to willfully mislead about his results (fraud), but was probably only guilty of seeing the results that he wanted to see. Of course this is only speculation since we don’t know

      3. In this case duplication was relevant – he was accused of missing data. The new paper was accepted, so apparently the only problem _was_ missing data. If you think otherwise I guess you have to try to reproduce.

        ““Missing data is not scientific misconduct,” John E. Dahlberg, the chief investigator for the Office of Research Integrity, said last year. “The whole purpose of O.R.I. is to go after serious fraud and not the peccadilloes one might find in many labs.”

        Dr. Hauser repeated the experiments and obtained the same results, which were accepted as valid by the two journals in question.”

        Seems there is only one remaining issue:

        “Only one of the eight counts, about an article published in the journal Cognition in 2002, seemed to involve a possibly serious breach of research ethics. The experiment had problems that Dr. Hauser ascribed to an error in the computer-controlled protocol for alternating test and control experiments.”

        1. … only one remaining issue, since the others already been corrected before publication.

        2. The problem remains that it is solely Hauser reproducing his results. There aren’t many labs that can do the work either, but that fact doesn’t make his work more credible.

  2. I’ve worked in both the public and private sectors, and I can’t recall anything “exciting” about either of them. Still, I’m not Marc Hauser.

  3. Hexag1, what’s so lowly about working with at-risk teens? U made a contrast between being renowned and helping at-risk teens

    1. Oh I don’t mean to denegrate the virtue of work in public service etc. There’s is, however, a marked contrast from what he was doing before.

      I have to say that this resignation looks really bad for Hauser. Why go into the public sector? No other universities want him? I think the hammer must be about to drop. Harvard or the government is going to release their results, and its not going to be pretty.

      1. Maybe his research into empathy and moral made him decided he needed to start using his life to help people in a different way? Something in his personal life? Is he running from something? I don’t know, but I agree that it is a weird career change.

  4. This looks suspiciously like a “plea bargain”. I doubt the decision to leave was as one-sided as Hauser would like us to believe.

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