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Beryl Lieff Benderly

Hauser Places Blame for Misconduct, But Not on Himself

Marc Hauser, the former Harvard psychology professor whose career and reputation imploded amid university findings of scientific misconduct, “fabricated data,” “falsified coding,” “falsely reported…results”, and committed other violations, according to a report issued 5 September  by the federal Office of Research Integrity. As stated in the report, Hauser “neither admits nor denies” wrongdoing, but “accepts ORI has found evidence of research misconduct.”

As reported by the Chronicle of Higher EducationHauser appears, however, to acknowledge only limited responsibility for the tainted results published under his name. In fact, in a move that highlights the vulnerability of young researchers who work in the labs of unscrupulous senior scientists, Hauser seems to be trying to lay off onto unknown others the blame for actions the ORI report ascribes to him. By way of explaining the situation, he declares in a statement quoted in the Chronicle that “I let important details get away from my control, and as head of the
lab, I take responsibility for all errors made in the lab, whether or
not I was directly involved.”

These so-called “errors” of supposedly uncertain origin occurred because “I tried to do too much, teaching courses, running a large lab of students, sitting on several editorial boards, directing the Mind, Brain & Behavior Program at Harvard, conducting multiple research collaborations, and writing for the general public,” he goes on. The arduous duties of a big-time academic apparently led him, the statement seems to imply, to making up or changing data.

Who are the unnamed others purportedly “involved” in the “errors”? Hauser’s statement seems to implicate lab members, who would very likely be powerless and dependent “at-will employees and graduate students,” in the words of a former
research assistant of Hauser’s quoted by the Chronicle. Some of them, at great cost to their own careers, brought his wrongdoing to light. All of them, it appears, were at risk of blame they did not deserve from a man whom, in the research assistant’s words, “they should have been able to trust.”