Harvard Professor on Leave Amid Accusations of Fraud

Harvard Professor on Leave Amid Accusations of Fraud
A view of the campus of Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass., on July 8, 2020. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

A Harvard Business School professor has been placed on leave amid accusations that she fabricated data that underpinned multiple peer-reviewed studies.

Behavioral scientists, including Leif Nelson, analyzed some of the studies co-authored by Harvard professor of business administration Francesca Gino. They found signs that data used in at least three of the studies were fabricated to support the authors’ hypotheses, including data used in a study that has already been retracted.
One of the studies posited that being dishonest could lead to creativity. Participants took part in a virtual coin toss. They could cheat during the coin toss. Participants were then asked to perform two tasks, one of which was to name different ways newspapers could be used.

The participants who cheated named more than those who didn’t, Gino and her co-authors said. But the way data from the study were organized suggests fraud, Nelson and others wrote on their blog, DataColada.

“It does not appear possible to sort the dataset in a way that produces the order in which the data were saved. They were either originally entered this way (which is implausible, since the data originate in a Qualtrics file that defaults to sorting by time), or they were manually altered,” they wrote.

Gino, who also is affiliated with Harvard Law School, didn’t respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment. Harvard Business School declined to comment.

Gino was placed on administrative leave no later than mid-May, according to archived versions of her Harvard Business School profile. No reason was listed for her being placed on leave.

Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino in an undated file image. (Courtesy of Harvard Business School)
Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino in an undated file image. (Courtesy of Harvard Business School)
Another paper Gino co-authored, which was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, has already been retracted.
May Berenbaum, editor-in-chief of the journal, said in 2021 that the editors were retracting the article after Nelson and his colleagues “provided evidence to question the validity of the data in the article.”

Gino is listed as the author or co-author of more than 400 articles. She has also written several books, including “Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules in Work and Life.” Her Harvard profile describes her as “an award-winning researcher who focuses on why people make the decisions they do at work, and how leaders and employees have more productive, creative and fulfilling lives.”

The papers cover subjects such as whether cheating leads to “moral disengagement” and whether people who were asked for advice penalize the people who asked.

Maurice Schweitzer, a business professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has co-authored other papers with Gino, said that Gino ran the experiments on which the papers were built.

“We developed ideas and study methods and research design, and then she executed the studies and would show me the results. And then we would assemble the manuscript together,” Schweitzer told the Chronicle of Higher Education, adding that Gino was “always very fast.”

Don Moore, another professor who co-authored papers with Gino, said that he doesn’t have the original data for any of the six papers.

“And I don’t trust the results,” he said.

Michael Yeomans, a third professor who worked with Gino, said that he stands by the studies they co-authored and that Gino “was never near any data.”

According to Nelson and two other behavioral scientists, Joe Simmons and Uri Simonsohn, some of the co-authors of Gino’s papers are planning to publish a report on the origin of the data for all studies co-authored by Gino.

Nelson and his colleagues said they plan to publish evidence of fraud from another paper in the near future.

“It is worth reiterating that to the best of our knowledge, none of Gino’s co-authors carried out or assisted with the data collection for the studies in this series,” they wrote.

Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news. Contact Zachary at [email protected]
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