Yesterday the Globe reported (signs of life!) that Harvard had compelled scientist Marc Hauser to take a “year-long leave” after “a lengthy internal investigation found evidence of scientific misconduct in his laboratory.”

Hauser, by the way, is a fellow at the Center for Ethics.

The news came out not because Harvard disclosed it, but because Hauser wrote a pained—but vague—letter to colleagues, one of whom (or a subsequent recipient) leaked it to the Globe.

Published in the Journal Cognition, the government-funded paper claimed to show that monkeys could learn patterns, which suggested that pattern-recognition was not the critical building block in human speech that it had previously been thought to be. (Because monkeys could recognize patterns, but not speak.)

So what malfeasance did Harvard find? It’s an important question for determining whether the paper remains generally valid, is partly discredited, or totally worthless. The answer? No one knows. Because Harvard isn’t saying.

The editor of Cognition, Gerry Altmann, said in an interview that he had not been told what specific errors had been made in the paper, which is unusual. “Generally when a manuscript is withdrawn, in my experience at any rate, we know a little more background than is actually published in the retraction,’’ he said. “The data not supporting the findings is ambiguous.’’

Today the Globe calls on Harvard to ‘fess up.

Harvard’s reaction isn’t entirely shocking; the revelation of defects in the work of a big-name researcher is an embarrassment to the institution, and most employers of any sort are wary of publicly singling out misdeeds by individual employees. But faulty scientific studies aren’t merely a personnel matter, and vague acknowledgments of serious flaws in a study only fuel broader doubts — and not just about Hauser’s work. Correcting the record in a straightforward, detailed way is important to Harvard’s reputation, too.

That strikes me as a pretty gentle admonition. I have two words for Harvard: “taxpayer-funded.”  You can’t take public money and then play secret when it is stolen, which is essentially what fraudulent research is—the theft of the money paid to underwrite it.

Moreover, there’s a public interest in the disclosure of accurate information about this apparently inaccurate study.

And finally, why cover it up? The university will only look worse than if it tells the truth.

I know this is corny, but Truth is Harvard’s motto.  Is that really too much to ask?

If Drew Faust were a strong president, she’d step in here….