Home' Teacher : October 2010 Contents 74 TEACHER OCTOBER 2010
cific sanctions meted out to Hauser, but
observed that the sanctions available to
him include involu ntary leave, the impo-
sition of additional oversight on Hauser's
research lab a nd restrictions on his ability
to apply for research grants, admit gradu-
ate students or super vise undergraduate
The 2002 article, 'Rule learning by
cotton-top tamarins,' in Cognition, co-
authored with Daniel Weiss from the Uni-
versity of Rochester and Gary Marcus from
New York University, has been retracted.
According to the Cognition retraction, 'An
internal examination at Harvard Univer-
sity found that the data do not support the
reported findings. We therefore are retract-
ing this article. (Marc Hauser) accepts
responsibility for the error.'
A correction was published for the 2007
paper, 'Rhesus monkeys correctly read the
goal-relevant gestures of a human agent,'
in Proceedings of the Royal Society, co-
authored with Harvard University's David
Glynn and the University of Southern Cali-
fornia's Justin Wood.
There's also a third publication, 'The
perception of rational, goal-directed action
in nonhu man primates,' in Science, one of
the world's most prestigious scientific jour-
nals, co-authored with Glynn, Wood and
Brenda Phillips from Boston University.
'The authors continue to work with the
(Science) editors,' Smith explained.
So a science researcher cooked his data
a little. Does it matter?
As Michael Tomasello, Co-Director of
the Max Planck Institute for Evolution-
ary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany,
explained to Johnson in an email in August,
'If scientists can't trust published papers,
the whole process breaks down.' T
By the editor of Teacher, Ste ve Holden,
this month's Last Word written was.
Highly commended in the best columnist
c ategory of the Quill Awards for the La st
Word last year by the Melbourne Press
Club winner he was.
'No dean wants to see a member of the
faculty found responsible for scientific mis-
conduct, for such misconduct strikes at the
core of our academic values. Thus, it is with
great sadness that I confirm that Professor
Marc Hauser was found solely responsible,
after a thorough investigation by a faculty
investigating committee, for eight instances
of scientific misconduct.'
So wrote Michael Smith, dean of Harvard
University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in
a memo to faculty members in August. The
memo was subsequently published by the
Chronicle of Higher Education.
Hauser's research investigates the evo-
lution of language and cognition through
studies of infant humans, and of rhesus
monkeys and cotton-top tamarins -- a bit
like the ewoks in Return of the Jedi. As it
turns out, though, Hauser has got his data
and his conclusions back to front, a bit like
Yoda: evolved as much as Hauser would
have us believe cotton-top tamarins have
not. They certainly don't speak Ewokese.
In essence, Hauser, Professor of Psychol-
ogy, Director of Harvard's Cognitive Evo-
lution Laboratory and adjunct Professor in
the Har vard Graduate School of Education,
was found guilty of monkey business -- using
bogus data to support his conclusion that
monkeys recognise sound patterns. As Tom
Bartlett in the Chronicle of Higher Educa-
tion explained, 'Researchers played a series
of three tones (in a pattern like A-B-A) over
a sound system. After establishing the pat-
tern, they would vary it (for instance, A-B-
B) and see whether the monkeys were aware
of the change. If a monkey looked at the
speaker, this was taken as an indication that
a difference was noticed.'
Trouble brewed when Hauser and a
research assistant independently coded video
of the experiment. According to Hauser's
coding, the monkeys noticed the change in
pattern; according to the research assistant's
coding, they didn't. A second research assist-
ant, whose role was to analyse the coding,
took the discrepancy to a graduate student
for advice. Independently, they watched the
video again, and found the behaviour of the
monkeys on the video and Hauser's cod-
ing had nothing in common. That led to an
investigation by Harvard's Faculty of Arts
and Sciences in 2007 that was completed
this year, news of which was broken by the
Boston Globe's Carolyn Johnson in August.
As Smith explained in his faculty memo,
Harvard 'considers confidential' the spe -
WHEN A LEADING RESEARCHER IS FOUND GUILTY OF SCIENTIFIC
MISCONDUCT, A CAREER IS IN RUINS AND THE FIELD OF NEUROSCIENCE
IS IN DAMAGE CONTROL, BUT WHAT'S REALLY AT STAKE IS THE WHOLE
PROCESS THAT UNDERPINS OUR TRUST IN SCIENCE.
STEVE HOLDEN EXPLAINS.
The last word
damned lies. ..
Links Archive September 2010 November 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page