Dear faculty colleagues,
No dean wants to see a member of the faculty found responsible for scientific misconduct, 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 under FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] standards. The investigation was
governed by our long-standing policies on professional conduct and shaped by the regulations of federal funding agencies. After careful review of the
investigating committee's confidential report and opportunities for Professor Hauser to respond, I accepted the committee's findings and immediately
moved to fulfill our obligations to the funding agencies and scientific community and to impose appropriate sanctions.
Harvard, like every major research institution, takes a finding of scientific misconduct extremely seriously and imposes consequential sanctions on
individuals found to have committed scientific misconduct. Rigid adherence to the scientific method and scrupulous attention to the integrity of
research results are values we expect in every one of our faculty, students, and staff.
In brief, when allegations of scientific misconduct arise, the FAS Standing Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC) is charged with beginning a process
of inquiry into the allegations. The inquiry phase is followed by an investigation phase that is conducted by an impartial committee of qualified,
tenured faculty (the investigating committee), provided that the dean, advised by the CPC, believes the allegations warrant further investigation. The
work of the investigating committee as well as its final report are considered confidential to protect both the individuals who made the allegations
and those who assisted in the investigation. Our investigative process will not succeed if individuals do not have complete confidence that their
identities can be protected throughout the process and after the findings are reported to the appropriate agencies. Furthermore, when the allegations
concern research involving federal funding, funding agency regulations govern our processes during the investigation and our obligations after our
investigation is complete. (For example, federal regulations impose an ongoing obligation to protect the identities of those who provided assistance to
the investigation.) When the investigation phase is complete, the investigating committee produces a confidential report describing their activity and
their findings. The response of the accused to this report and the report itself are considered by the dean, who then decides whether to accept the
findings, and in the case of a finding of misconduct, determine the sanctions that are appropriate. This entire and extensive process was followed in
the current case.
Since some of the research in the current case was supported by federal funds, the investigating committee's report and other supplemental material
were submitted to the federal offices responsible for their own review, in accordance with federal regulations and FAS procedures. Our usual practice
is not to publicly comment on such cases, one reason being to ensure the integrity of the government's review processes.
A key obligation in a scientific misconduct case is to correct any affected publications, and our confidentiality policies do not conflict with this
obligation. In this case, after accepting the findings of the committee, I immediately moved to have the record corrected for those papers that were
called into question by the investigation. The committee's report indicated that three publications needed to be corrected or retracted, and this is
now a matter of public record. To date, the paper, "Rule learning by cotton-top tamarins," Cognition 86, B15-B22 (2002) has been retracted because the
data produced in the published experiments did not support the published findings; and a correction was published to the paper, "Rhesus monkeys
correctly read the goal-relevant gestures of a human agent," Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274, 1913-1918 (2007). The authors continue to work
with the editors of the third publication, "The perception of rational, goal-directed action in nonhuman primates," Science 317, 1402-1405 (2007). As
we reported to one of these editors, the investigating committee found problems with respect to the three publications mentioned previously, and five
other studies that either did not result in publications or where the problems were corrected prior to publication. While different issues were
detected for the studies reviewed, overall, the experiments reported were designed and conducted, but there were problems involving data acquisition,
data analysis, data retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results.
Beyond these responsibilities to the funding agencies and the scientific community, Harvard considers confidential the specific sanctions applied to
anyone found responsible for scientific misconduct. However, to enlighten those unfamiliar with the available sanctions, options in findings of
scientific misconduct include involuntary leave, the imposition of additional oversight on a faculty member's research lab, and appropriately severe
restrictions on a faculty member's ability to apply for research grants, to admit graduate students, and to supervise undergraduate research. To ensure
compliance with the imposed sanctions, those within Harvard with oversight of the affected activities are informed of the sanctions that fall within
their administrative responsibilities.
As should be clear from this letter, I have a deeply rooted faith in our process and the shared values upon which it is founded. Nonetheless, it is
healthy to review periodically our long-standing practices. Consequently, I will form a faculty committee this fall to reaffirm or recommend changes to
the communication and confidentiality practices associated with the conclusion of cases involving allegations of professional misconduct. To be clear,
I will ask the committee to consider our policies covering all professional misconduct cases and not comment solely on the current scientific
In summary, Harvard has completed its investigation of the several allegations in the current case and does not anticipate making any additional
findings, statements, or corrections to the scientific record with respect to those allegations. This does not mean, however, that others outside
Harvard have completed their reviews. In particular, Harvard continues to cooperate with all federal inquiries into this matter by the PHS Office of
Research Integrity, the NSF Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts.
Michael D. Smith
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.