Hauser, the author of Moral minds: How nature designed a universal sense of right and wrong is a noted researcher in the field of animal cognition. He had been placed on leave following accusations by his students that he had purposely fabricated data in his research. Hauser's work relied on observing responses by tamarin monkeys to stimuli such as changes in sound patterns, claiming they possessed thinking skills often viewed as unique to humans and apes.
Hauser has posted a response to the charge:
I am deeply sorry for the problems this case has caused to my students, my colleagues, and my university..Emory University primate researcher Frans de Waal has chimed in:
I acknowledge that I made some significant mistakes and I am deeply disappointed that this has led to a retraction and two corrections. I also feel terrible about the concerns regarding the other five cases, which involved either unpublished work or studies in which the record was corrected before submission for publication.
I hope that the scientific community will now wait for the federal investigative agencies to make their final conclusions based on the material that they have available.
I have learned a great deal from this process and have made many changes in my own approach to research and in my lab's research practices.
Research and teaching are my passion. After taking some time off, I look forward to getting back to my work, mindful of what I have learned in this case. This has been painful for me and those who have been associated with the work.
It is good that Harvard now confirms the rumors, so that there is no doubt that they found actual scientific misconduct, and that they will take appropriate action. But it leaves open whether we in the field of animal behavior should just worry about those three articles or about many more, and then there are also publications related to language and morality that include data that are now in question. From my reading of the dean's letter, it seems that all data produced by this lab over the years are potentially in question.As has psychologist David Premack:
Dishonesty in cognitive science is somehow more disturbing than dishonesty in biology or physical science. The latter threatens the lives of people, producing a kind of harm we readily comprehend. The former puzzles us: it produces no physical harm, but threatens our standards, a kind of harm we do not readily understand. Because he caused no physical harm, we see him as discrediting everything he touched, including science itself. Hauser, a gifted writer, had no need for shortcuts.