Harvard Business School Will Make Its Investigation Report On Francesca Gino Public

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino has filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Harvard, the dean of the Harvard Business School, and Data Colada

Harvard Business School’s internal investigative report into allegations that Professor Francesca Gino committed academic misconduct will now be made public.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the school’s motion to release the 1,100-page report. U.S. District Judge Myong J. Joun concluded that the report is a judicial record that carries a presumptive right of public access and that Gino had failed to show good cause for keeping the report sealed.

The judge said Harvard may redact portions of the report that concern Gino’s private health data, as well as names and other identifying information of witnesses. Harvard sought the report’s release along with  two media organizations, The New Yorker magazine and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Harvard’s lawyers argued that the report undercuts a number of the allegations in Gino’s $25 million defamation lawsuit.


The judge’s decision prompted an immediate reaction from Gino’s lawyers in her lawsuit against Harvard, HBS Dean Skrikant Datar, and three professors who author a blog called Data Colada which first alleged that Gino committed data fraud in several of her research papers. “While I disagree with releasing a one-sided, unreliable, and confidential HR document without any context and without opportunity for my client to dispute the factual allegations through the normal process of litigation and discovery, the silver lining is that people can see for themselves that this investigation was a charade,” says Andrew T. Miltenberg, Gino’s attorney in a statement. “Harvard found no evidence that Professor Gino modified data, not a single co-author or research assistant interviewed believed she did it and their own forensics firm did not claim they proved Prof. Gino’s guilt.”

The judge’s decision is something of a surprise in the case because Harvard has never publicly released an investigation report. In the school’s own policy, it is described as a confidential HR document. Gino’s legal team believes the report’s unsealing will further defame their client. The report’s release will further anger some HBS faculty members who have already accused Dean Datar of violating the school’s norms of policy development by pushing through a new process to deal with professors accused of research misconduct without the knowledge or collaboration with the faculty.

Citing the report’s finding, Dean Datar placed Gino on unpaid administrative leave, banned her from campus, and prevented her from publishing on Harvard’s platforms. He also started the process to revoke her tenure. If successful in stripping Gino of tenure, it could be the very first time any faculty member at Harvard University has lost the lifetime protection tenure offers a faculty member.


An award-winning behavioral scientist at Harvard Business School, Gino was first accused of fabricating data by Data Colada in July of 2021 when authors of the blog approached Harvard Business School with their allegations. According to her lawsuit, Dean Datar negotiated a secret agreement with Data Colada, putting off the publication of their posts until HBS had the opportunity to investigate the claims. After an 18-month-long investigation by a three-person committee of former and current HBS professors, the panel concluded that Gino was responsible for research misconduct. Dean Datar accepted the committee’s verdict and suggested punishment on June 13th of this year. Gino has maintained her innocence throughout, raising questions about the fairness of the process as well as the harshness of the penalties imposed on her.

Word of the school’s findings quickly leaked out. A mere three days later, in a June 16th article entitled A Weird Research-Misconduct Scandal About Dishonesty Just Got Weirder, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that one of Gino’s co-authors claimed that Harvard found that one study contained even more fraudulent data than previously revealed and was now asking the journal to note this new information. It was quickly followed within 24 hours by more detailed reporting by Data Colada with the start of a four-part series examining data in four separate studies co-authored by Gino. “We wrote a report about four studies for which we had accumulated the strongest evidence of fraud,” the blog authors asserted. “We believe that many more Gino-authored papers contain fake data. Perhaps dozens.”

HBS Dean Datar sent an email to the school’s faculty on the Chronicle’s article. “Last Friday,” he wrote, “the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article describing concerns that have been raised about the research of a member of our faculty, Francesca Gino, as well as steps the School is taking with journals and co-authors to correct the scientific record. Other outlets are beginning to carry stories as well. While I know you may have questions, confidentiality is an important consideration in these matters. I realize this runs counter to our longstanding norms of transparency and communication but hope that you can appreciate and understand the reasons for this approach.


“As reflected on Professor Gino’s public Faculty & Research page, she is now on an administrative leave. We have been taking steps to ensure that her responsibilities are transitioned-working, for example, with the Doctoral Programs leadership to support PhD students, and with the leaders of our educational programs to adjust teaching assignments. I am grateful to those of you who have stepped up to help. If you have a question about an activity or collaboration and have not yet been contacted, please let me know.

“Research integrity is and must be one of our core values as an institution. I am grateful for your unwavering commitment to advancing knowledge and for being a vital part of our vibrant research communitv.”

Many in the faculty were shocked, if not horrified. They believed Gino was a person of high integrity and would never have manipulated data in a study. In fact, every witness interviewed by the committee that investigated the charges said exactly that.

Harvard has consistently declined public comment on the case, but after Gino filed her lawsuit, he wrote another email to the faculty defending his decision to discipline Gino.  ” I ultimately accepted the investigation committee’s recommended sanctions, which included immediately placing Professor Gino on administrative leave and correcting the scientific record (a measure incumbent on every responsible academic institution when research misconduct is found),” Datar wrote. “I did so after consulting confidentially with a small number of individuals at HBS and Harvard, including senior faculty members here at the School, as is permitted by our policy. The sanctions reflect a shared belief that the misconduct represented a significant violation of academic integrity and that the evidence not only met but surpassed the applicable preponderance of evidence standard. I shared my conclusions with Professor Gino and, in accordance with our policy and consistent with University practice, began implementing the institutional actions.”



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