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Academics Launch Project To Verify Work Of Harvard Business School Professor Accused Of Fraud

Researchers launch the ‘Many Co-Authors Project’ to check the raw data used in studies co-authored by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino

Fri Nov 10 2023

Harvard Business School (HBS) academics have launched an online platform to compile and verify all data collected for studies co-authored by under-fire HBS professor, Francesca Gino.

The 'Many Co-Authors Project', which was first reported by the Harvard Crimson, involves a large number of academics, who say their goal is to correct the academic record and to clear Gino’s former co-authors of suspicion of fraud.

Alleged falsification of data

In June 2023, the Harvard Business School faculty was shaken by accusations of data fraud leveled at Francesca Gino, a professor specializing in—of all things—the study of honesty.

The accusations were published on the data blog Data Colada by Uri Simonsohn, Leif D. Nelson, and Joseph P. Simmons, professors at University Ramon Llull in Barcelona, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively. 

Across several posts, the professors accused Gino of publishing fraudulent data in at least four papers and detailed their efforts to bring this alleged academic misconduct to the attention of Harvard Business School. 

Since then, Gino has been stripped of her professorship, barred from entering Harvard Business School’s campus, and the circulation of her research has been banned from the business school’s platforms. 

As a response, Gino has launched a $25 million lawsuit against both Harvard Business School and the data scientists behind Data Colada. She protests her innocence and alleges sexism in the handling of the allegations by the school, which she has called a “smear campaign”. 

The professor now faces a tenure review, which, if her tenure were stripped, would be the first such case in the school’s history.

The ‘Many Co-Authors Project’

As the academic community reels from the controversy unfolding around Gino, several of her former co-authors have created the ‘Many Co-Authors Project’ to clear their own names of suspicion.

To do this, the professors behind the project emailed 143 co-authors across 138 papers to ask whether Gino had been involved in the data collection of each paper. If she was involved or if the co-authors were unsure about how the data was collected, the project leaders requested access to the raw data. 

Gino has expressed concerns about the structure of the project, claiming that she was only told about it two weeks before it was published.

Although many academics see the project as a much-needed step to address issues with transparency in academia, some co-authors have also expressed reservations.

One co-author quoted by the Harvard Crimson said that, since the names of co-authors who didn’t participate were listed on the site, they were afraid that not participating would be seen as an admission of guilt. They voiced concerns that this amounted to “bullying”. 

At the time of writing, the ‘Many Co-Authors Project’ has received responses from 121 of 143 co-authors.

Image © Juliette Melton on Flickr, reproduced under this license.