First, let’s recall that “scientific misconduct” in this case does not mean sloppy work; it means, by the NIH definitions Harvard uses in such investigations, either plagiarism (not on the table here) or the manipulation or fabrication of data. Extremely serious charges. I covered this heavily last year here at Neuron Culture and in a wrap-up at Slate.
Given the seriousness of those findings from Harvard, many wondered if Hauser would be fired. Harvard has kept its cards close, however, probably for a mix of legal and strategic reasons, and probably too because a federal investigation is apparently underway, as sometimes happens if a researcher is accused of particularly egregious misconduct in research using federal funds. As a result, the Hauser news feed stayed quiet for a while. But it livened up over the last two weeks.
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If the Harvard administration thinks it can avoid this issue, I hope they’ll think again. Doing otherwise feeds the impression that the university grants stars like Hauser the sort of exemption the Crimson [campus newspaper] complains of. Whatever Harvard decides about Hauser — and not deciding is the worst decision of all — it needs to make the standards and the process far more transparent than it has so far.
Dobbs doesn’t address the possibility, one way or the other, whether the whole business of trying to prove that monkeys think like people was ripe for some sort of disaster.