09:25 AM

Ohio State releases findings of external research policy review

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State University today released findings from an independent, external review of its Office of Research policies and procedures related to managing research misconduct allegations.

The review concluded that the university’s policies and activities comply with applicable laws and federal requirements.

Ohio State is committed to exceeding federal standards and has been working on enhancements to its research integrity program. The review recommended that the university could improve further by incorporating additional procedures, practices and processes into policy.

“We are a national leader in academic research, and we specified in our strategic plan that a world-class research enterprise requires world-class support and accountability,” said Bruce A. McPheron, executive vice president and provost.

Faculty and administrators across the university have worked together on an advanced research integrity plan that is in the first stages of implementation, beginning with expansion of an intensive online training requirement to approximately 25,000 members of the research community.

The review of university practices was conducted by nationally respected research policy and compliance experts at Ropes & Gray, a Boston-based law firm, and two additional outside experts. The executive summary of the report is available here.

Ohio State initiated the review after The New York Times began investigating allegations concerning the work of cancer researcher Dr. Carlo Croce last year. The university sought an independent, external evaluation of its research integrity policies and procedures as well as an assessment of the university’s examination of Croce’s research activities.

Ohio State leaders asked the individual reviewers to focus on three specific questions:

  • What are best practices for reviewing allegations of research misconduct?
  • Is Ohio State’s research misconduct policy consistent with legal requirements and best practices?
  • Did Ohio State follow its policies and legal requirements in addressing past research misconduct allegations concerning Dr. Croce’s work and his lab?

The reviewers assessed existing Ohio State policies concerning research misconduct procedures, research data and hearing procedures for complaints against faculty members. They also examined files relating to allegations of research misconduct against Croce.

The reviewers concluded that Ohio State’s policy for managing research misconduct allegations is consistent with federal regulations, embraces many best practices and is consistent with policies and practices in place at many other preeminent U.S. academic institutions. Ropes & Gray recommended incorporating in the university’s policy certain additional best practices, including:

  • clarifying that the research integrity officer (RIO) will take steps to sequester evidence before notifying a respondent in a research misconduct proceeding.
  • formalizing the responsibility of RIOs for managing conflict-of-interest issues during a misconduct investigation.
  • establishing a standing faculty committee on research misconduct because of the expertise and time commitments required; the current practice is for these committees to be established on an ad-hoc basis.
  • routinely referring to other institutions any allegations of misconduct related to research carried out primarily at those institutions.
  • adopting, for biomedical research, uniform authorship standards of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

The review concluded that Ohio State’s evaluation and disposition of all allegations raised against Croce were consistent with the university’s policy and legal requirements, and reached reasoned and supportable conclusions.

Ropes & Gray suggested areas for improvement in the institutional review process. Under best practices, the consultants advised Ohio State should have taken steps to reduce the risk of a perceived conflict of interest during its investigative proceedings and required retraction of one research paper in question rather than only corrections.

“We asked some of the best minds in the country to review our research policies and procedures, and give us an honest and thorough assessment,” said Gates Garrity-Rokous, Ohio State vice president and chief compliance officer. “We are grateful for the careful evaluation and detailed feedback. We will adopt the Ropes & Gray recommendations and are continuing our own assessment of the research enterprise to ensure our practices not only comply with, but exceed, federal and legal requirements.”