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Amid Ethics Concerns, Ohio State Stands Behind Researcher Carlo Croce

Ohio State University
Dr. Carlo Croce

Dr. Carlo Croce is a giant in the cancer research field and has brought Ohio State University tens of millions of dollars in research grants. But a New York Times story this week says Croce’s been given a pass by the university despite allegations of data falsification, plagiarism and other scientific misconduct in more than 30 of his papers.

On Thursday, the president of Ohio State University said he stands behind the school’s decision to not discipline Croce.

"The allegations are that in the lab he oversees, and in papers on which he's co-author, there are - call them fabricated figures - duplications of data from unrelated experiments used to prove a point in another experiment," says James Glanz, a New York Times reporter who co-authored the story.

Croce has never been penalized by Ohio State University. Indeed, the article stated, school officials said they were unaware of these allegations until contacted by The Times.

President Michael Drake says the school asked a team of people "with national reputations" in the field to look into the allegations and review Ohio State's response to the misconduct claims.

“And all the things that they found showed that our policies were appropriate, and we followed them appropriately," Drake said on All Sides With Ann Fisher. "So, that’s the part that we really focused on. I think it turned out like we expected it would.”

Drake said the team's report was being finalized and would be publicly available when it was finished.

Glanz says he's not surprised by Drake's and the university's response, which became another focus of his reporting.

"You have a situation where institutions like Ohio State face a lot of conflict of interest issues when they're investigating their own researchers," Glanz says, "partly because their prestige is tied up in the prestige of the researcher, and also because the researcher's receiving a lot of grant money."

Croce has also been accused of misappropriation of that grant money, including submitting false payment requests for science never carried out and using funds for personal trips.

In the interview, Drake said Ohio State has invested a lot more into Croce’s research than he’s earned for the school. Glanz says The Times was unable to verify that claim.

Croce responded to an email seeking comment saying he was in Italy and could chat when he returned. Until then, he referred WOSU to a statement from his attorneys: "It is true that errors sometimes occur in the preparation of figures for publication. Any mistakes with figures were honest errors."

The New York Times contacted experts who showed image manipulation in Croce's research - but Glanz says it's impossible to determine intent just by looking at the image.

"People who looked at many of these cases believed it was very unlikely that this couldn't have been part of a pattern," Glaz says. "In other words, it was part of a pattern."