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Embattled Harvard professor barred from teaching

Role at university still undefined

Marc Hauser’s future has been uncertain since a Harvard inquiry found him responsible for scientific misconduct. Marc Hauser’s future has been uncertain since a Harvard inquiry found him responsible for scientific misconduct.
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
Globe Staff / April 21, 2011

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Marc Hauser, the prominent Harvard psychology professor who was found by university investigators to have committed scientific misconduct, will not teach there next year, after a decisive faculty vote and a decision by the dean.

Hauser’s scientific and academic future has been uncertain in the months since Michael D. Smith, dean of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, announced in a letter that an internal investigation had found the star professor “solely responsible’’ for eight counts of scientific misconduct.

Harvard has said it is cooperating with federal agencies that are investigating the matter, and the results of those investigations still have not been made public. Hauser has been on a yearlong leave of absence, but is scheduled to return in the fall, raising questions from people inside and outside the university about what his role will be.

“A large majority of the members of the department of psychology voted in February to not offer courses taught by Professor Hauser during the 2011-2012 academic year,’’ a Harvard spokesman, Jeff Neal, said in a written statement. “Dean Smith supported this decision, and, in that light, he will not condone professor Hauser teaching in other FAS departments or schools.’’

Hauser did not respond to an e-mail yesterday.

A Harvard Extension School class that Hauser was scheduled to teach last fall was canceled at the last minute. At the time, Hauser said in an e-mail to the Globe that he looked forward to returning to teaching.

“I am deeply saddened and disappointed that I won’t be able to teach, but am looking forward to the fall of 2011,’’ Hauser wrote.

Neal made the statement after the Harvard Crimson incorrectly reported yesterday that Hauser would be teaching two classes in spring 2012, Psychology 1066: “Origins of Evil;’’ and Psychology 2381: “Hot Topics in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience.’’

Susan Carey, the chairwoman of the psychology department, confirmed that Hauser would not be teaching those or any other classes next school year.

“He will not be teaching; he will not be in the classroom at Harvard next year,’’ Carey said.

When asked what Hauser’s precise role would be at the university and within the department when he returns in the fall, Carey said those details were being worked out.

The Globe first reported last August that a lengthy internal investigation had found evidence of misconduct. The investigation had resulted in the retraction of a study in the journal Cognition and a correction published to another study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. A paper published in the journal Science has yet to be corrected.

The dean disclosed that five additional pieces of research had been found to have problems, but those were either not published or corrected before publication. They were “problems involving data acquisition, data analysis, data retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results,’’ his letter said.

For privacy reasons, Harvard has never specified what sanctions were taken against Hauser, but the dean’s letter last summer did list options: involuntary leave, steps to increase oversight of a researcher’s laboratory, and restrictions on many of the most fundamental parts of conducting research.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com.