The Marc Hauser Counter-Offensive Begins

Harvard Crimson: Who Will Speak For Marc Hauser?

The Harvard Crimson today offers a defense, of sorts, of Marc Hauser, the Harvard psychology professor accused of scientific misconduct.

The Crimson piece, written by Bert Vaux, a former professor of linguistics at Harvard and Jeffrey Watumull, a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Cambridge and a member of Hauser’s lab, basically trashes the media for telling only one side of the story, and for lacing those stories with “innuendo” and “gossip.”

Vaux and Watumull defend the research methodology Hauser used in experiments he did with monkeys, seeking to determine if they recognized certain sound patterns. And, the writers say Gerry Altmann, the editor of the journal Cognition, who speculated that Hauser fabricated data, spoke out in a manner that was “exceedingly improper.” (Hauser did retract a 2002 paper published in Cognition, and apologized, vaguely, for “mistakes” made.)

The Crimson piece concludes:

In our experience, Marc Hauser is the consummate scientist—the most disinterested, the most rational, the most ethical. We are proud to be his colleagues. However, we are less than proud of those in the cognitive sciences reacting publicly to Hauser’s case with irresponsible impatience (disrespect for due process), unjustified slurs, and half-baked conjectures. All are interested in the truth, but as scientists we ought to consider the case reasonably and measuredly, with objectivity and fairness.

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  • Rbrunelli3

    There is a remarkable lack of evidence of anything except lack of rigor, which (last time I checked) is neither unethical nor actionable. Altman has cleverly made an accusation that can’t be refuted, whether true or not. Shame.

    • Mike S.

      Hauser retracts a paper from Altman’s journal and Harvard and Hauser didn’t want to say why that was being done. If they don’t want the editor speculating in the media, then they ought to have provided him with sufficient reason for retraction that he need not resort to speculation. Your criticism of Altman – in light of the facts – is not persuasive.

  • Marchons

    The Crimson article is actually a week old. Oddly enough, so is the comment by “Gil”, which was also posted on the Crimson website.

  • Gil

    Bert Vaux and Jeffrey Watumull state that when they worked with Hauser, he was a careful scientist. However, they worked with Hauser *after* Hauser already knew he was being investigated. All that proves is that Hauser wasn’t a complete sociopath.

    Vaux and Watmull’s Op Ed piece is silly. They don’t address the fact that Hauser was found guilty after an extensive 3-year investigation by Harvard. Instead, they attack the people who are speculating why Hauser was found guilty. Give me a break.