January 6, 2011
ScienceInsider has published a letter from Harvard Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Michael Smith, addressed to his faculty.
it is with great sadness that I confirm that Professor Marc Hauser was found solely responsible, after a thorough investigation by a faculty investigating committee, for eight instances of scientific misconduct under FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] standards.
The dean notes that their internal inquiry is over but that there are ongoing investigations from the NIH and NSF. So my curiosity turns to Hauser’s NIH support- I took a little stroll over to RePORTER.
From 1997 to 2009 there are nine projects listed under the P51RR000168 award which is the backbone funding for the New England Primate Research Center, one of the few places in which the highly endangered cotton top tamarin is maintained for research purposes. The majority of the projects are titled “CONCEPTUAL KNOWLEDGE AND PERCEPTION IN TAMARINS”. RePORTER is new and the prior system, CRISP, did not link the amounts but you can tell from the most recent two years that these are small projects amounting to $50-60K.
Hauser appears to have only had a single R01 “Mechanisms of Vocal Communication” (2003-2006).
Of course we do not know how many applications he may have submitted that were not selected for funding and, of course, ORI considers applications that have been submitted when judging misconduct and fraud, not just the funded ones. One of the papers that has been retracted was published in 2002 so the timing is certainly such that there could have been bad data included in the application.
The P51 awards offer a slight twist. I’m not totally familiar with the system but it would not surprise me if this backbone award to the Center, reviewed every 5 years, only specified a process by which smaller research grants would be selected by a non-NIH peer review process. Perhaps it is splitting hairs but it is possible that Hauser’s subprojects were not reviewed by the NIH. There may be some loopholes here.
Wandering over to NSF’s Fastlane search I located 10 projects on which Hauser was PI or Co-PI. This is where his big funding has been coming from, apparently. So yup, I bet NSF will have some work to do in evaluating his applications to them as well.
This announcement from the Harvard Dean is just the beginning.
April 14, 2010
A recent paper set out to examine automobile driving skills in people who had previously used Ecstasy (presumptively 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; MDMA) but were currently not using. Dastrup and colleagues (2010) used a driving simulator task in which the job was to maintain a set distance behind a lead vehicle (LV) displayed on the computer screen. The job was to stay abut two car lengths (given as 18 meters) behind the LV while accelerating to 55mph.
My Google U conversion calculation makes 55 mph out to be about 25 meters / sec. I would therefore estimate the closing time between the cars as about 0.4-0.5 seconds, depending on car length and how much space you assume between these lengths. Thereafter the LV changed speed as depicted in the Figure 2 from the paper.
The horizontal line sits at the 55 mph point and you can see that the speed of the LV varies up to about 59 mph and down to about 51 mph with the maximum change taking place over about 18-20 seconds. .
February 26, 2010
We’ve been talking about the use of animals in research lately. One thing that always comes up is how animals share some critical capacity with humans. I try to point out in all of this that some of these questions are amenable to investigation. Some of the claims can be supported, nullified or qualified on the basis of existing data. The process of describing or interpreting the data is never simple. And it seems that many people who parrot what seem to be simple claims actually have very little understanding of the evidence on which they rest. I have at least one observation in the archive that points out where not thinking hard about the strength of the evidence can lead to unsupported conclusions being widely disseminated. This post was originally published Feb 25, 2008.
In the midst of World War I, Wolfgang Köhler conducted a famous series of experiments to investigate problem solving ability in chimpanzees. The lasting impression of these experiments, reinforced by just about every introductory Psychology text, was Köhler’s assertion that the chimps demonstrated “insightful” learning.
Did they now?
December 2, 2009
In case anyone missed this, The Brain Observatory at UCSD is slicing perhaps the most well known brain in cognitive neuroscience. That of Henry Molaison, aka “HM”.
DAY 2 UPDATE: They are slicing again after quite a bit of time to get a new microtome blade going. You can follow Twitter commentary on the #HM hashtag (even if you don’t have a Twitt account).
October 29, 2009
August 18, 2009
Greg Laden has an absolutely fantastic post up on “The Falsehoods” in which he observes:
Biology is harder to learn than quantum physics. Why? Because most people think they totally get biology, but everyone knows nobody gets quantum physics. Therefore, any effort to explore quantum physics will result in new learning, but people rarely learn new biology. The bottom line is that our brains are full of biology, which would be good if most of it did not consist of falsehoods.
This is great stuff.