Last Friday, the Boston Globe brought us an update on everyone’s favorite data-falsifying former Harvard psychology professor, the man who put the a** in a**ertainment bias, Marc Hauser. The story summarizes a report prepared by Harvard and submitted to the Office of Research Integrity back in 2010, and which the Globe got hold of via a FOIA request. You can look at the 85-page report for yourself, if you like that sort of thing.
The basic story is that Hauser was not fabricating data the way one might fabricate results to show a connection between vaccination and autism when no such connection exists. Instead, he repeatedly made small tweaks to data in order to push the results towards his preferred conclusion. And then, also repeatedly, when someone would raise a question, he would be sort of a dick about it. One example from the Globe’s story:
In a second, related experiment, a collaborator asked to be walked through the analysis because he or she had obtained very different results when analyzing the raw data. Hauser sent back a spreadsheet that he said was simply a reformatted version, but then his collaborator made a spreadsheet highlighting which values had apparently been altered.
Hauser then wrote an e-mail suggesting the entire experiment needed to be recoded from scratch. “Well, at this point I give up. There have been so many errors, I don’t know what to say. . . . I have never seen so many errors, and this is really disappointing,” he wrote.
In defending himself during the investigation, Hauser quoted from that e-mail, suggesting it was evidence that he was not trying to alter data.
The committee disagreed.
“These may not be the words of someone trying to alter data, but they could certainly be the words of someone who had previously altered data: having been confronted with a red highlighted spreadsheet showing previous alterations, it made more sense to proclaim disappointment about ‘errors’ and suggest recoding everything than, for example, sitting down to compare data sets to see how the ‘errors’ occurred,” the report states.
Ah, yes, the old “mistakes were made” gambit.
The 2010 report was the culmination of a three-year investigation into Hauser’s lab. Hauser was suspended from teaching, and then resigned from Harvard in 2011. He currently devotes his time to working with at-risk youth on Cape Cod. The youths are presumably at risk of not having their papers published in high-impact journals, due to the fact that their results are not statistically significant when accurately reported.