Archive for August, 2010

More Proof that Twitter Isn’t for Everyone

Posted on August 31st, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

What recently appointed, reasonably high-level Harvard spokesperson until recently went by the Twitter nom de plume @Mr_Crankypants?

Sample tweet:

I’m still oddly bitter about the Boston Comicon and the clowns who ran it….

Nothing against the person in question, it’s just…Twitter: No.

Perhaps She Can Feed the Monkeys?

Posted on August 31st, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The New York Post reports that Harvardian Caroline Giuliani, the apparently troubled daughter (not her fault) of a truly awful person, has been sentenced to one day of community service for shoplifting.

When did people decide that it’s appropriate to go to court looking like you were headed to Wendy’s?

083110giuliani4sh.jpg

New York Post photo

“Cancelled”

Posted on August 31st, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

As commenters on this blog noted, and the Crimson reports, Marc Hauser is no longer teaching at the Harvard Extension School.

I am deeply disappointed as I was extremely excited about teaching the courses,” Hauser wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson on Monday night. “I will return to teaching in the fall of 2011, including courses both at the College and at the Extension School.

Hauser sounds very confident of this—or is it just spin?

More Great Jon Stewart

Posted on August 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

He and the people who work for him won another Emmy last night. They deserve it.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Beck is Buck

Posted on August 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Since when did the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols become a shill for Glenn Beck?

And how offensive is that “Hope” poster—apparently you can just swap out one black guy for another and make the same point….

Even scarier: Why does my Facebook picture show up when I happen just to visit that page because a friend sent me the link?

That creeps me out more than Glenn Beck does.

MonkeyGate Continues

Posted on August 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

Harvard and Marc Hauser got hit with more bad press over the weekend, when Nicholas Wade in the Times followed up on this blog and the journal Cognition by reporting that Hauser “may have fabricated research.

The article essentially rewrites an editor’s note in Cognition.

“Given the published design of the experiment, my conclusion is that the control condition was fabricated,” said Gerry Altmann, the editor of the journal Cognition, in which the experiment was published.

(The Globe has the same story here.)

Of course, the suggestion that Hauser fabricated data was first made here, on August 19th, in response to the Chronicle of Higher Education piece reporting on discontent in Hauser’s lab.

The obvious implication: Hauser fabricated his results.

As Wade points out, there were plenty of alarm bells that people at Harvard should have noticed long ago:

Scientists trying to assess Dr. Hauser’s oeuvre are likely to take into account another issue besides the eight counts of misconduct. In 1995, Dr. Hauser published that cotton-top tamarins, the monkey species he worked with, could recognize themselves in a mirror. The finding was challenged by the psychologist Gordon Gallup, who asked for the videotapes and has said that he could see no evidence in the monkey’s reactions for what Dr. Hauser had reported. Dr. Hauser later wrote in another paper that he could not repeat the finding.

What Wade doesn’t point out: That possibly falsified paper was written before Hauser received tenure from Harvard.

The Crimson, meanwhile, reported that Hauser is definitely still teaching at the Extension School.

Which means that the first course a Crimson reporter should sign up for this fall is at the Extension School.

Dean of Continuing Education and University Extension Michael J. Shinagel confirmed with the University that it was “appropriate” for Hauser, whose research sits at the intersection between cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary biology, to teach at the Extension School this year, according to Extension School spokeswoman Linda A. Cross. She added that it is “not uncommon for teachers on leave from [the Faculty of Arts and Sciences] for various reasons” to teach at the Extension School.

About which a few things should be said.

1) Why does the extension school have a spokeswoman? That’s just silly.

2) If there were ever a case in which the dean should stand up and be counted, rather than offering a “statement” through a spokeswoman…

3) No, it’s not appropriate for someone in the middle of the most serious scientific scandal in years to teach at the Extension School. That’s not even close.

“One view of teaching is that you are an ambassador for the science you are teaching and for the institution at which you are teaching,” Gerry Altmann, the editor-in-chief of Cognition, a scientific journal which recently retracted an article Hauser published in 2002, wrote in an e-mail. “I personally do not believe that someone who is found guilty of misconduct is ambassador material.

Isn’t it embarrassing for Harvard that outsiders must make such an obvious point?

Meanwhile, Drew Faust helped freshmen pick energy-efficient light bulbs out of a bin. (See the last photo in the slideshow here.)

Apparently the lights are on, but….

After the Fall

Posted on August 27th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

You knew it would happen: In the Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten uses Marc Hauser and MonkeyGate to attack evolutionary psychology.

Evolutionary psychologists tell elaborate stories explaining modern life based on the conditions and circumstances of our prehistoric ancestors—even though we know very little about those factors. “Often, the fact that their story seems to make sense is the only evidence they offer,” Mr. Ryan wrote. “For them, it may be enough, but it isn’t enough if you’re aspiring to be taken seriously as a science.”

That’s where Mr. Hauser’s work comes in…..

I’m far from an expert on evolutionary psychology, but from what I’ve learned of it over the past week or so—watching monkeys watching themselves, etc.—Felten seems to have a point, albeit slightly infused with anti-liberal ideology.

On the other hand, The Economist says,

One corner-cutting researcher does not impugn a whole field. Clive Wynne, editor of Behavioural Processes, which published an “obsessively” immaculate paper by Dr Hauser three days before the Globe’s revelations, says he is struck by how meticulous recent research in his discipline has been.

Well, having the embarrassment of publishing Hauser’s most recent paper—which, since it was surely written during the three-year period in which Harvard was investigating Hauser, would be “immaculate”—he would say that.

Meanwhile, writing to the Globe, a BU psychology prof seconds my point that taxpayers should be pissed.

According to his online academic resume, Hauser has received millions of dollars in government grants just since 2001 as chief scientific investigator, and millions more with several of his colleagues in the Harvard psychology department — including the department chairwoman, who was quoted as saying how sad this all was and “how bad for Marc.’’

It is also sad for the taxpayers who spent all those millions on Hauser’s so-called research. I want my money back.

Indeed.

That letter, by the way, was a response to the Globe’s earlier article, in which psychology department chair Susan Carey expressed her sympathy over how difficult this must be for Hauser.

“Everybody is in shock,’’ Carey said. “Everybody is incredibly sad. Everybody feels terribly bad for Marc.”

Such fuzzy-headedness is the kind of lax attitude in which fraud can take root.

Many people seem to like Hauser—his Harvard peers, essentially, and students in his classes. I’m sure he’s a likable guy; he has a warm face. But this is the, um, mark of a con man—he has an attractive personality, people like him, and so are more inclined to trust him. But niceness and integrity are not the same thing. And sometimes the most honest people are the most unpleasant.

Anyway, his graduate students and researchers seem to have had a different experience of Hauser. Remember that email he wrote when they questioned his results?

I’m getting pissed here….

Here’s Carey again:

“The process has gone very, very badly wrong for Harvard, for Marc, for science, for everything,’’ Carey said. “We need to figure out if there is a better way to police ourselves on this issue. You have to be really, really, really careful because you can ruin somebody’s life and career.’’

Carey, who seems to care more about Hauser than about all the damage he has done, has her priorities misplaced. I appreciate that there’s a line she has to walk; you don’t want to look like you’re throwing the guy under the bus. But as a leader in her field, she should be more concerned with scientific integrity than with circling the wagons.

Besides….how exactly has the process gone “very badly wrong…for Marc”?

He seems to have gotten off rather lightly—a year’s suspension, that we know of, but he’s still teaching at the Extension School, which is weird—while the details of his misconduct (or, as Hauser puts it, “mistakes”) remain a closely guarded secret.

While Carey laments how difficult this must have been for Marc Hauser, she says not a word about the graduate students and researchers who put their careers on the line (I’m getting pissed here…) to do the right thing.

Not exactly an incentive for them to do it again, is she?

Muslim Mosque Madness

Posted on August 26th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The kerfuffle about the Ground Zero mosque is explained by Taiwanese animators. Apparently they are smarter than we are.

Sorry about the Reticence

Posted on August 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Like MonkeyGate, I have quieted down of late. Sorry about that—between wedding-planning and work, blogging has been a challenge. (Sleeping, not so much.)

Back very soon….

MonkeyGate and Facebook

Posted on August 23rd, 2010 in Uncategorized | 24 Comments »

The Times ran on Saturday with two front-page stories about the questionable ethics of Harvardians Mark Zuckerberg and Marc Hauser.

The first Times piece reported on Facebook’s hostility to the new David Fincher film, The Social Network, which is about the founding of Facebook.

Behind the scenes…Mr. Zuckerberg and his colleagues have been locked in a tense standoff with the filmmakers, who portray Facebook as founded on a series of betrayals, then fueled by the unappeasable craving of almost everyone for “friends” — the Facebook term for those who connect on its online pages — that they will never really have.

The Times piece is pretty pro-Facebook, pointing out that some of the scenes in the film appear to be fiction and others are highly dramatized. Still, it misses the fundamental truth that Facebook was founded on a series of betrayals. (Having edited the 02138 investigation of Facebook, “Poking Facebook,” I can attest to that.) They may not have been illegal, but they were certainly unpleasant.

A greater problem for Facebook is that, try though it might, it can not sanitize the image of Mark Zuckerberg, who presents to most people as neither likable nor trustworthy. This is not a good thing for a company gathering information on over half a billion people. And Facebook’s latest privacy fiasco, its very scary “Places” feature, isn’t helping its cause.

The second Page One story on Harvard on Saturday was about Marc Hauser. Nicholas Wade’s piece was largely a rewrite of FAS dean Michael Smith’s letter, first posted on this site on Friday.

I don’t know Wade, but he seems comfortable voicing subjective opinion in his reporting. For example:

In view of Dr. Hauser’s prolific output, the finding of missing data in just three experiments, two of which he was able to repeat with the same results, is perhaps not greatly surprising.

Really? One suspects many eminent scientists would not agree with that assertion.

Wade also quotes Hauser, who gave a statement to the reporter, as “telling the New York Times,” language that in my business suggests he only told it to the New York Times and, thus, Wade had a scoop of sorts.

In fact, Hauser had given the same statement to USA Today, and presumably anyone else who asked for it.

The USA Today piece advances the ball considerably (making the Times look bad; emphasis added):

“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,” says Emory University primate researcher Frans de Waal. “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.”

Wade does note what his notable about Hauser’s statement: his confession merely to making “significant mistakes,” when the implication of the best piece of reportage on the scandal, the Chronicle of Higher Education story blogged about here last week, is that Hauser forged his data in at least one experiment—which is only a “mistake” in the broadest sense of the word.

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.

Of course, Hauser could make this process easier for the scientific community by simply telling people what he did—there’s nothing stopping him.

But just as Harvard earlier implied that it could not comment because of the federal investigation, Hauser is now sneakily suggesting that he can’t say anything for the same reason.

Which is, of course, balderdash: Hauser can say whatever he wants.

What he’s hoping is that people will have largely forgotten about this scandal by the time that federal investigation finishes its work, and that he can then obfuscate about whatever results it may produce.

Shouldn’t we expect better from someone whose website still lists him as a fellow at the Harvard Center for Ethics?

Here’s another great quote from that USA Today piece:

“Dishonesty in cognitive science is somehow more disturbing than dishonesty in biology or physical science,” said psychologist David Premack, an emeritus professor of the University of Pennsylvania, in an email to USA TODAY.* “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.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Note, by the way, that USA Today identifies this comment as an email, while the Times’ Nicholas Wade says that Hauser “told” the Times his comment, when it too was almost certainly emailed. Small things, but they matter.