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The Hauser Effect

Marc Hauser's recent problems have cast a shadow over several different scientific fields, says the New York Times' Nicholas Wade. So far, only one of his articles has been retracted and two have been amended, but Harvard hasn't given a solid reason for the retraction, leading researchers to wonder if more of Hauser's work could be called into question, Wade says. Hauser and his students have worked on studies ranging from animal communication to morality. Harvard says it has reported its findings to the federal government, which gave Hauser some of his research funds, and that it's up to the government to tell the scientific community about the particulars of the case, Wade writes. But the government says there's no report forthcoming. The real problem, Wade adds, is that no one knows exactly what went wrong in Hauser's lab. "Since the committee has made no charges public, the nature of Dr. Hauser's errors is unknown and could fall anywhere within a wide range, from minor sins like sloppiness and bad record-keeping to self-deception to outright fabrication of data," he says. Many scientists would like to build on his work, but don't know what's tainted and what's not. Plus, much of Hauser's work is done with other researchers, putting all those who've published with him "under a possible cloud," until Harvard comes clean with the details, Wade writes.

Mike the Mad Biologist says Harvard should have come clean a long time ago, instead of sweeping "the findings under the rug." The scandal was made worse by the university's "coverup," he adds, and that whatever embarrassment the school would have faced would have been offset by its claim to academic integrity and honesty. "It would have been a minor event ... Instead, this is festering and people are paying a lot of attention to it," he says.

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