Citing misconduct inquiry, Harvard professor cancels classes

Marc Hauser Marc Hauser
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
Globe Staff / September 1, 2010

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Harvard psychology professor Marc Hauser canceled a Harvard Extension School class on cognitive evolution that he was scheduled to start teaching yesterday and dropped plans to offer a spring class called “The Moral Sense: From Genes to Law.’’

Hauser, who was found by an internal Harvard investigation to have engaged in scientific misconduct, is on a one-year leave from research and teaching in the university’s main arts and sciences school, though the Globe reported last month that he still planned to teach in the extension school.

But the extension school sent an e-mail to students who were enrolled in the fall semester class stating that the course has been canceled “at the request of the instructor, Professor Marc Hauser.’’

“We deeply regret the late nature of this decision and fully understand the inconvenience this imposes upon you,’’ the e-mail said.

The e-mail also included a statement from Hauser. “Because of the controversy surrounding the investigation, I have decided that the best thing for the students is that I not teach at the extension school until things conclude with the case,’’ Hauser wrote. “Given my great desire to teach, I look forward to sharing my knowledge of these disciplines in the future.’’

In response to an e-mail from a reporter, Hauser said the canceled classes will have no impact on his plans to return to teaching a year from now for either the college or the extension school.

“As my note said, 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.

The editor of a journal that published a paper that Hauser and two coauthors have retracted said it would have been inappropriate for Hauser to teach at Harvard now. “I do believe somebody who the university has accused of misconduct is, by definition, not an ambassador for that university, and putting that person in the position where they have an ambassadorial role . . . is really quite extraordinary,’’ said Gerry Altmann, editor of Cognition.

In a letter to faculty last month, Harvard dean Michael D. Smith said that Hauser had been found solely responsible for eight instances of scientific misconduct, involving three published papers and five other experiments.

He wrote that Harvard was cooperating with inquiries by the federal Office of Research Integrity, the National Science Foundation office of inspector general, and the US attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts. Some of Hauser’s research was supported by federal funds.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at

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