Harvard Business School’s Damning Unsealed Report On Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino

Harvard Business School today (March 14) provided a rare behind-the-scenes look at an investigation into allegations of research fraud by one of its superstar professors, Francesca Gino. The 1,300-page report by a three-member investigation committee was unsealed for the public to read.

“After reviewing the available evidence and interviewing Professor Gino and several witnesses, the Investigation Committee has determined, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Professor Gino significantly departed from accepted practices of the relevant research community and committed research misconduct intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, with regard to all five allegations examined herein,” according to the report. The panel went on to conclude that the “severity of the research misconduct” called for “appropriately severe institutional action.” It recommended that HBS Dean Srikant Datar “consider placing Professor Gino immediately on an unpaid leave and initiating steps to termination of employment.”

The committee members, appointed by HBS Dean Datar, were Professor Teresa Amabile, who served as chair, Professor Robert Kaplan, and Professor Shawn Cole. During its investigation, which was launched on May 13, 2022, the group interviewed Gino and six of her collaborators, reviewed volumes of sequestered materials as well as a forensic analysis of the specific allegations, and written responses from an unnamed professor and other person.

The report’s release followed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Myong J. Joun 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 committee’s work product had been entered into the court record by Harvard’s attorneys hoping to gain a summary judgment and dismissal of Gino’s $25 million defamation lawsuit against Harvard, HBS Dean Datar, and the three authors of the Data Colada blog that brought the allegations of research fraud to Harvard’s attention.


Among other things, the committee recommended that Harvard conduct an audit of other studies by Gino beyond the four studies it examined. The panel also recommended that any letters of reference or support for Gino include the committee finding that she committed research misconduct.

The report also reveals, however, that Dean Datar’s treatment of Gino went beyond the committee’s recommendations. Dean Datar was only asked to “consider” putting Gino on an unpaid leave and firing her from the school. Dean Datar not only did both; he also banned her from campus, took away her endowed faculty title and medical benefits for her family, prevented her from publishing on Harvard platforms,  and began the process of stripping Gino of tenure. The unsealing of the report is extraordinary in itself because Harvard has never publicly released an investigation report. The school’s policy describes such a report as a confidential HR document.

The document also makes clear that no one interviewed by the committee said they saw her manipulate data, and no one suggested they suspected that she did (see What Harvard’s Investigation Report On Francesca Gino Failed To Reveal).  The committee itself noted that “we acknowledge, and we took seriously, statements by all witnesses that they never doubted the integrity of the data in the study or studies in question. One witness who knew Professor Gino well said they never doubted her integrity in any way. In addition, several exhibits appended by Professor Gino in her response contained messages to her from co-authors,  colleagues and former doctoral students expressing their admiration for her research rigor and integrity. The witnesses we interviewed also said that they had no evidence that Professor Gino had ever  pressured colleagues, doctoral students, post-docs, or research assistants, including themselves, to produce particular results in a study, or that Professor Gino had created a negative atmosphere in her lab.”

An excerpt of a letter informing Professor Gino that HBS Dean Srikant Datar decided to move forward with a full investigation of four of her research studies


The report also makes no mention of the fact that the school’s newly revised research misconduct policy imposed a six-year limitation period on studies. As a result, three of the four papers investigated by the committee were technically out of scope. Nor does the report acknowledge that Gino was forbidden from contacting research assistants or co-authors/peers to defend herself. She could only rely on records in her current possession, even though Harvard Business School had already seized her computer. No less crucial, the committee did not comment on the fact that the policy it used to guide its probe was created specifically for this inquiry without collaboration or approval from the Harvard Business School faculty which was unaware of the new policy until two years later.

Nonetheless, the report itself is highly damaging to Gino whose lawyers opposed the release of what had been a confidential document. “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.”

However, the committee’s findings were unanimous, with just one exception: A 2012 paper claiming that people who signed their name to a form before filling it out were more likely to complete the form honestly. Gino was alleged to have falsified or fabricated the results for one study by removing or altering descriptions of the study procedures from drafts of the manuscript submitted for publication, thus misrepresenting the procedures in the final version. Gino acknowledged that there could have been an honest error on her part. One committee member felt that the “burden of proof” was not met while the two other members believed that a finding of research misconduct was warranted.


According to the report, Gino advanced two explanations in her defense. One was that there were honest errors committed by research assistants who may have erred in data coding, checking, or cleaning of data. The committee came to believe that Gino failed to provide any evidence that was persuasive in explaining the “major anomalies and discrepancies” in the data. Gino also told the committee that someone other than herself tampered with the data.

In one case, Gino suggested to the committee that a specific co-author had access to her computer, online data storage account, and/or data files. Gino named a professor–whose name is redacted in the report but has since been revealed as Boston University Professor Nina Mažar–as the most likely suspect. Identified as a female professor who was a co-author of Gino’s now-retracted 2012 paper about inducing honest behavior by prompting people to sign a form at the top. According to the report, Gino said that the scholar had access to Gino’s online data-storage account, as well as a “motive.” Gino claimed her co-author was “angry” at her for “not sufficiently defending” one of their collaborators “against perceived attacks by another co-author” concerning an experiment in the paper. The committee said it examined a large volume of email correspondence among the co-authors of the paper. According to the report, Gino claimed that Mažar had said to her, “You’re going to hurt as much as I do.”

“That correspondence indicated some tension, disagreement and harsh feelings among those five co-authors, but no tension or harsh feeling that we could detect” between the professor and Gino. “Professor Gino’s repeated and strenuous argument for a scenario of data falsification by bad actors across four different studies, an argument we find to be highly implausible, leads us to doubt the credibility of her written and oral statements to this committee more generally,” according to the report. “Gino presented no evidence of any data falsification actions by actors with malicious intentions. She offered only speculation that one or more such actors were responsible for the data anomalies and discrepancies at issue in the allegations.”

A portion of the investigation committee report with the names of several professors redacted.




The report includes a detailed chronology of the committee’s meetings and interviews (see table below).  Included in an exhasutive appendix to the report are all of Gino’s responses to the committee along with transcripts of interviews, emails and the original articles. The document  also goes into significant detail on every allegation, Gino’s explanation for the discrepancies, and the committee’s conclusion based on interviews with co-authors, emails, data sets, and a report by a forensic firm. For each allegation, the committee found Gino at fault. A typical conclusion, repeated over and over in the report: “By a preponderance of evidence, the investigation committee finds that Professor Gino intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly falsified and/or fabricated the dataset by altering a number of observations in a way that favored the hypothesized results,” according to the report. “Accordingly, we find Professor Gino responsible for research misconduct…”

“On the basis of the evidence gathered and evaluated by the investigation committee, the committee concludes that Professor Gino has engaged in multiple instances of research misconduct, across all four studies at issue in these allegations. Because the papers reporting these studies span eight years in their publication dates, with different co-authors, in different journals, assisted by different lab personnel, and out of different home institutions for Professor Gino, the committee is concerned about other possible instances of research misconduct in Professor Gino’s studies,” according to the report.

Throughout the investigation and in the aftermath of Dean Datar’s decision to banish Gino she has maintained her innocence. If Harvard is successful in stripping her of tenure,  she would be the only professor in the history of Harvard University to have tenure removed forcefully.


The four papers under investigation were:

Why Connect? Moral Consequences of Networking With A Promotion or Prevention Focus (2020) by Gino, Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, and Tiziana Casciaro, of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School.

The Moral Virtue of Authenticity: How Inauthenticity Produces Feelings of Immorality and Impurity (2015) by Gino, Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, and Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia Business School.

Evil Genius? How Dishonesty Can Lead To Greater Creativity (2014) by Gino and Scott S. Wiltermuth, of USC’s Marshall School of Business.

Signing at the beginning makes ethics salient and decreases dishonest self-reports in comparison to signing at the end (2012) by Gino, Lisa L. She of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Nina Mazar of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Dan Ariely of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and Max H. Bozeman of Harvard Business School.

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