Marc Hauser Resigns From Harvard

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The evolutionary psychologist Marc D. Hauser
July 19, 2011

Marc D. Hauser, the Harvard psychologist found responsible for eight counts of scientific misconduct by the university, has resigned, ending speculation about whether the embattled professor would return to campus this fall.

In a letter dated July 7, Mr. Hauser wrote to Michael D. Smith, Harvard's dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, that he was resigning effective August 1 because he had "some exciting opportunities in the private sector" and that he had been involved in some "extremely interesting and rewarding work focusing on the educational needs of at-risk teenagers."

The letter states that he may return to teaching and research "in the years to come." It does not mention the scandal that damaged his once-stellar reputation and stunned his colleagues in the field.

Last August, The Boston Globe reported that a university investigation had found Mr. Hauser guilty of misconduct, though the nature of that misconduct remained murky. The picture became somewhat clearer after Mr. Smith, the Harvard dean, sent a letter to faculty members saying that Mr. Hauser was "solely responsible" for eight instances of wrongdoing involving three published and five unpublished studies.

An internal document provided last August to The Chronicle by a former research assistant in Mr. Hauser's laboratory revealed how members of the lab believed Mr. Hauser was reporting faulty data and included e-mails demonstrating how he had pushed back when they had brought problems to his attention. Several lab members alerted the university's ombudsman, setting in motion an investigation that would lead to the seizure of computers and documents from Mr. Hauser's laboratory in the fall of 2007.

The last update on the Hauser matter came in April, when the journal Science published a partial replication of one of Mr. Hauser's studies that appeared to validate his original findings. That seemed to be good news for Mr. Hauser and led some, like Bennett G. Galef Jr., an emeritus professor of psychology at McMaster University, to question Harvard's investigation.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Galef said that he had been asked to review material provided by Mr. Hauser's lawyer and that he did not find "any convincing evidence that he was guilty," though he said he had not seen Harvard's investigation report or read the accounts provided by members of Mr. Hauser's lab. "Whether he's innocent or guilty, I don't know," Mr. Galef said. He called the resignation "a sad outcome."

A former member of Mr. Hauser's lab, however, felt little sympathy for Mr. Hauser. The former research assistant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was among those who blew the whistle on what they believed to be misconduct. "I certainly don't feel bad that this is the outcome for him," the former research assistant said. "I think it's nice for the people who are still at Harvard not to have him there making it awkward for everyone."

As for those who doubt Harvard's findings, the former research assistant said "I know what I saw," and "I agree with a lot of other people who looked at it and saw the same thing," adding that it was "beyond the scope of some innocent kind of action."

Harvard's report remains under wraps, and an investigation by the federal Office of Research Integrity is apparently continuing. Normally, the agency publishes the results of its investigations once they are concluded. An automatic reply from Mr. Hauser's e-mail account said he would be away until late July.