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Harvard Business School Professor Accused of Data Fraud

A group of data investigators have accused Harvard Business School professor, Francesca Gino, of publishing fraudulent data in at least four papers

Mon Jun 26 2023

In a feat of irony, Francesca Gino, 45, a Harvard professor who studies honesty, has been accused of publishing fraudulent data in at least four papers by three fellow business school professors. 

Uri Simonsohn, Leif D. Nelson, and Joseph P. Simmons, who teach at University Ramon Llull in Barcelona, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively, have so far published three out of a four-part series of posts detailing the academic fraud committed by Gino, on their blog Data Colada. 

According to The Harvard Crimson, the professors claim they first contacted  Harvard with concerns over Gino’s academic misconduct in 2021. In a report addressed to the university, they described four incidents of data fraud committed by Gino for which they had accumulated evidence.

However, they subsequently revealed they suspected these incidents were only the tip of the iceberg. 

‘We believe that many more Gino-authored papers contain fake data,’ the three wrote in a blog post last week. ‘Perhaps dozens.’

Gino is now on administrative leave according to her faculty profile and in the past month, her endowed faculty position—the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration—has also been removed from her page.

Gino studies behavioral economics, specializing in research on leadership and workplace dynamics, and has received numerous awards for her teaching. In 2015, the Italian-born researcher was honored as one of Forbes’ Top 40 Professors under 40, and she also received the HBS Faculty Award by Harvard Business School's MBA Class of 2015. 

An investigation carried out by Data Colada in 2021 found a landmark paper she co-authored in 2012 contained falsified results. The investigators singled out one of the three experiments in the paper as being problematic. It was later retracted. 

All five co-authors of the paper, including Gino and fellow Harvard professor, Max Bazerman, denied any involvement with the tampering of data in the experiment. 

However, on June 17th Data Colada published the first post in their series, which stated they had found further evidence of data falsification in another experiment Gino was responsible for. 

Harvard has also been internally investigating ‘a series of papers’ for more than a year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The professors’ post added that Harvard has requested three other papers co-authored by Gino also be retracted and that the 2012 paper’s retraction be altered to include Gino’s fabrications.

Last week, Bazerman told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he had been informed of the additional data fabrication by Harvard, which included evidence that someone had accessed a database before adding and altering data in the file. He described the evidence as “compelling”, but denied any knowledge or involvement in any data manipulation. 

According to Data Colada, Gino was ‘the only author involved in the data collection and analysis’ of the experiment in question. 

The professors stated that to the best of their knowledge none of the other co-authors carried out or assisted with the collection of data for the studies in question.

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