Just in case you didn’t check Retraction Watch yet today, Carolyn Johnson reports:
The committee painstakingly reconstructed the process of data analysis and determined that Hauser had changed values, causing the result to be statistically significant, an important criterion showing that findings are probably not due to chance.
As the man said:
His resignation is a serious loss for Harvard, and given the nature of the attack on him, for science generally.
As a statistician, I don’t mind if someone is attacked because of cheating with data.
Johnson concludes her news article in a pleasantly balanced way:
The committee said it carefully considered Hauser’s allegation that people in his laboratory conspired against him, due to academic rivalry and disgruntlement, but did not find evidence to support the idea.
The committee also acknowledged that many of Hauser’s overall findings about the cognitive abilities of animals may stand. His results that showed that animals may have some of the same cognitive abilities as people have been important for the field. But science depends on the data.
“Skepticism above all toward the veracity of one’s own hypotheses is, of course, an essential virtue for scientists,” the committee wrote, “and one that must be modeled for the benefit of trainees.”
P.S. Given the title of this post, I should probably clarify that I do not blame statistical significance for Hauser’s offenses. Any statistical procedure of any sort will be destroyed if you start monkeying around with the data.
P.P.S. In all seriousness, I wonder if Hauser feels more relaxed now that he’s been caught and these conclusions are out in the open. He can spend more time doing the theorizing he loves, rather than the experimental work that freaked him out so much. Shifting to this new career couldn’t have been so easy for him, but now that it’s happened, maybe he’s reached more of a state of calm.
The next step, I hope, is confession and apologies to all the people he accused, all the people who wasted so much time on this case (including the people on that committee), his former graduate students (also, maybe some reparations to the person who resigned from his lab after Hauser said he was “a bit pissed” to have his work questioned), and, not least, to Hauser’s friends, the people who stood by him and defended him through all the denials. After that, maybe he can move on with his life.