Harvard’s Star ‘Honesty’ Researcher Busted in Probe, Investigators Recommend Termination

A Harvard Business School professor whose research into why people cheat and act dishonestly was found by an internal probe to have cheated and acted dishonestly, according to The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper of Harvard University.

The nearly 1,300-page internal report into professor Francesca Gino found that she had adjusted data in at least four published studies so as to make the data fit the theories she was trying to prove, according to the New York Post.

“The committee concludes that Professor Gino has engaged in multiple instances of research misconduct, across all four studies at issue in these allegations,” the report read, according to the Post.

As a result, the investigating committee of three Harvard Business School faculty members recommended that Gino be terminated and all of the studies be retracted.

“Harvard’s Office of the President notified Gino in late July that her tenure was under review for revocation,” The Harvard Crimson reported. “If she is stripped of her tenure, it would be an unprecedented move by Harvard, as there are no known cases of the University revoking a professor’s tenure.”

Gino had offered two explanations for the allegations of dishonesty in her studies: “honest error, likely by her research assistants” or that “someone other than herself tampered with the data,” according to The Harvard Crimson.

The professor, whom the Post described as a “star behavioral scientist” who had “authored over 140 academic papers and snagged numerous awards,” could offer no evidence of honest error on anyone’s part, according to the report.

She also apparently believed — or claimed to believe — that “an unknown actor with malicious intentions was a more plausible explanation than honest errors or intentional data falsification by herself.”

In fact, she named the “unknown actor” she believed responsible — a former collaborator whose named was redacted from the report when it was made public.

Again, however, Gino was unable to provide any evidence that the collaborator had actually manipulated the data, other than her ability to manipulate it, her access to it, and a potential motive in her possible “negative feelings toward Gino.”

That accusation, however, bore a striking resemblance to the accusations against Gino, which her lawyer called “a charade.”

“Harvard found no evidence that Prof. Gino modified data, not a single co-author or research assistant interviewed believed she did it, and their own forensics firm did not claim they proved Prof. Gino’s guilt,” her attorney, Andrew T. Miltenberg, told The Harvard Crimson.

Gino, in other words, argued that her collaborator could have manipulated the data and had reason to, and therefore probably did. However, when the HBS faculty members investigating Gino found that Gino herself also could have manipulated the data and had (and arguably better) reason to, her lawyer claimed that was insufficient evidence to warrant her termination.

Gino had previously sued Harvard for defamation and denied all of the allegations against her.

“Gino’s $25 million lawsuit against Harvard awaits its first major ruling on whether most of the claims filed by Gino will proceed or be immediately dismissed,” The Harvard Crimson reported.

Gino’s legal team had argued against the public release of the report, calling it a “one-sided, unreliable, and confidential HR document,” according to the outlet.

“[T]he silver lining is that people can see for themselves that this investigation was a charade,” he added.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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