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Harvard professor who studies dishonesty is accused of falsifying data

Francesca Gino has been teaching at Harvard Business School for 13 years.
Maddie Meyer
Getty Images
Francesca Gino has been teaching at Harvard Business School for 13 years.

Francesca Gino, a prominent professor at Harvard Business School known for researching dishonesty and unethical behavior, has been accused of submitting work that contained falsified results.

Gino has authored dozens of captivating studies in the field of behavioral science — consulting for some of the world's biggest companies like Goldman Sachs and Google, as well as dispensing advice on news outlets, like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and even NPR.

But over the past two weeks, several people, including a colleague, came forward with claims that Gino tampered with data in at least four papers.

Gino is currently on administrative leave. Harvard Business School declined to comment on when that decision was made as well as the allegations in general.

In a statement shared on LinkedIn, the professor said she was aware of the claims but did not deny or admit to any wrongdoing.

"As I continue to evaluate these allegations and assess my options, I am limited into what I can say publicly," Gino wrote on Saturday. "I want to assure you that I take them seriously and they will be addressed."

The scandal was first reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month. According to the news outlet, over the past year, Harvard had been investigating a series of papers involving Gino.

The university found that in a 2012 paper, it appeared someone had added and altered figures in its database, Max H. Bazerman, a Harvard Business School professor who collaborated with Gino in the past, told The Chronicle.

The study itself looked at whether honesty in tax and insurance paperwork differed between participants who were asked to sign truthfulness declarations at the top of the page versus at the bottom. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which had published the research, has retracted it.

Shortly after the story, DataColada, a group of three investigators, came forward with similar accusations. After examining a number of Gino's works, the team said they found evidence of fraud spanning over a decade, most recently in 2020.

"Specifically, we wrote a report about four studies for which we had accumulated the strongest evidence of fraud. We believe that many more Gino-authored papers contain fake data. Perhaps dozens," DataColada wrote.

The group said they shared their concerns with Harvard Business School in 2021.

Gino has contributedto over a hundred academic articles around entrepreneurial success, promoting trust in the workforce and just last year published a study titled, "Case Study: What's the Right Career Move After a Public Failure?"

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.