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Report details Ohio State researcher’s history of ethics allegations

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Carlo Croce was the subject of a New York Times article documenting ethics allegations against him. Credit: Lantern File Photo

Carlo Croce, a renowned cancer researcher at Ohio State and chair of the College of Medicine’s Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics, got his latest dose of national attention on Wednesday, although it probably wasn’t the kind he wanted.

Croce, whose research has brought in millions of dollars to the university and garnered national recognition, was the subject of a New York Times article that documented a heap of falsification allegations that have been made against him and his research over the years. Croce has denied any wrongdoing, and OSU has cleared him five times, although spokesman Chris Davey told The Times that the university is now conducting an independent review.

While The Times notes the money brought in by Croce’s research — $86 million in grants — Davey said that OSU has outspent that amount facilitating his research, and decried any implication that the university tolerated falsified research for monetary purposes.

“We care deeply about this and are committed to upholding the highest standards possible,” Davey said in the statement, a copy of which he provided to The Lantern. “We take allegations of misconduct very seriously and out of an abundance of caution, in January we launched an independent review of our systems for ensuring research integrity.”

Croce denied any wrongdoing in a statement made to The Times through the Columbus-based law firm Kegler, Brown, Hill and Ritter.

“It is true that errors sometimes occur in the preparation of figures for publication,” Croce said in the statement. He added that any mistakes with figures were “honest errors,” and avoiding plagiarism relies on the integrity of the multiple authors involved on a given paper.

The Times piece documented at least 20 complaints lodged against Croce, and said another three were on the way, according to journal editors. Many of the complaints were involving alleged data manipulation.

A statement to The Lantern from KBHR noted that Croce’s work has never been retracted, and that Google Scholar ranks him as one of the most cited researchers in the world.

The Times piece also noted that Croce was previously tied to a fraud investigation concerning his time at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, where there were allegations that he and a colleague misspent grant money. The investigation ended with a $2.6 million settlement paid by the university, and no parties admitted wrongdoing.

Purdue virologist David Sanders railed against Croce for what he called his “reckless disregard for the truth.” But Croce also found support.

Phillip Sharp, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he was unaware of the allegations against Croce, but told The Times that Croce’s work contained important contributions to cancer research.

“I would say Carlo has made some important contributions to the molecular causes of cancer,” Dr. Sharp said. “I can’t condone the sloppiness he has in general. But if I look historically at what Carlo has done, if I delete Carlo from the scientific community, I think the scientific community is a little less, and that isn’t true of everybody who publishes papers.”

Croce has never been penalized for his work, neither by OSU nor federal oversight agencies.

8 comments

  1. Concerned alumnus

    What is particularly troubling is this excerpt from the New York times article: “At Ohio State, officials said they were unaware of Dr. Sanders’s charges against Dr. Croce until
    asked about them for this article.” How can that be? What on earth is the is the vaunted (and very expensive) Compliance Department doing? And now that the word is out, what are Dr. Drake and the trustees going to do?

  2. “A statement to The Lantern from KBHR noted that Croce’s work has never been retracted”

    Please read:
    http://retractionwatch.com/2017/03/08/cancer-researcher-dodged-accusations-decades-new-correction/

    “By our count, Croce has logged five retractions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)”

  3. What puzzles me is this public statement by the University: “In fact, over the 12-year span of Dr. Croce’s tenure at Ohio State, the university has invested significantly more in his research program than he has brought in from outside sources.”

    This is offered to suggest that OSU’s investments in his research would somehow increase their motivation to investigate allegations against him. But this argument is completely failed. Investing a lot of OSU money in Croce would make the university LESS not MORE likely to investigate him so that they don’t lose returns on their giant investments.

    OSU administrators: Please think these things through so as not to make OSU look even more dishonest (and/or illogical) in its response.

    • What puzzles me is this public statement by the University: “In fact, over the 12-year span of Dr. Croce’s tenure at Ohio State, the university has invested significantly more in his research program than he has brought in from outside sources.”

      This is offered to suggest that OSU’s investments in his research would somehow increase their motivation to investigate allegations against him. But this argument is completely facile. Investing a lot of OSU money in Croce would make the university LESS not MORE likely to investigate him so that they don’t lose returns on their giant investments.

      OSU administrators: Please think these things through so as not to make OSU look even more dishonest (and/or illogical) in its response.

    • Correction: “facile” not “failed”

  4. he makes 850K a year, so that’s a thing.

    • More precisely, a sum of two things.

      His base salary is approximately 800K. For the years 2013 & 2014, he was awarded a 50K bonus, which increased to 59K in 2015 (source: Columbus Business First OSU salary database).

      So OSU was awarding these nice bonuses while substantive charges of academic misconduct were being reported, along with the various retractions he was forced to make.

  5. How much Pelotonia money has gone to his lab and towards his salary?

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