Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I just don't trust the guy...

The events surrounding Marc Hauser and his lab over the last week have been fascinating to follow and interesting to wonder about from afar, but the lasting impact didn't really hit home until I read this post: What Are The Origins of Number Representation?

The Thoughtful Animal is a good science blog written by a smart grad student at USC. And that particular post is an excellent summary of interesting research on human cognition. But here's the thing, it includes a review of one of Hauser's papers. Though not one of the three papers targeted by the investigation, as far as I know, I felt suspicious. I couldn't help it. Perhaps I should be less judgmental, but the truth is, I just don't trust the guy. I do not claim that's a good thing. Again, perhaps I should be more objective, but there is an uncontrollable emotional aspect to the effect of academic misconduct. Credibility is gone.

This is the inevitable effect of that kind of scandal (and I do think that's an appropriate word to use here) that Hauser is now involved in. I can't read any reference to his work sans suspicion (especially work involving qualitative judgments about the behavior of cotton-top tamarin monkeys). I could read the original paper, of course, but that wouldn't allay the deep suspicion because I wouldn't be able to review the evidence myself. However, if Hauser, and all scholars, would publish their raw data online (as Liberman has called for here) I could make a better informed judgment as to the credibility of that particular paper and its conclusions. Unfortunately that option simply isn't available to me ... yet.

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