Statement by HKS on recent news concerning allegations against the Kennedy School by a former staff member.
The document’s allegations of unfair treatment and donor interference are false. The narrative is full of inaccuracies and baseless insinuations, particularly the suggestion that Harvard Kennedy School allowed Facebook to dictate its approach to research.
By longstanding policy to uphold academic standards, all research projects at Harvard Kennedy School need to be led by faculty members. Joan Donovan was hired as a staff member (not a faculty member) to manage a media manipulation project. When the original faculty leader of the project left Harvard, the School tried for some time to identify another faculty member who had time and interest to lead the project. After that effort did not succeed, the project was given more than a year to wind down. Joan Donovan was not fired, and most members of the research team chose to remain at the School in new roles.
Harvard University and Harvard Kennedy School continue to carry out pathbreaking research on misinformation and the role of social media in society. For example, a Kennedy School faculty member has constructed and posted online the Facebook Archive, the only academic archive that makes available to researchers thousands of leaked Facebook documents. As another example, a Kennedy School faculty member publishes and edits the only peer-reviewed academic journal on misinformation, the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review. By policy and in practice, donors have no influence over this or other work.