Ohio State Researcher Sues New York Times, As Another Paper Comes Under Scrutiny

Sep 13, 2017

Dr. Carlo Croce, one of Ohio State University’s most decorated researchers, has had another scientific paper withdrawn amid ongoing questions about errors in his research.

Croce, a professor in and chair of the Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics in Ohio State’s College of Medicine, was the subject of a New York Times article earlier this year that said he’s faced allegations of plagiarism, data manipulation, and other misconduct in more than 30 of his papers.

Last month, the Journal of Biological Chemistry said Croce and other authors of the paper “Fhit interaction with ferredoxin reductase triggers generation of reactive oxygen species and apoptosis of cancer cells" withdrew it over errors in the construction of figures.

The journal wrote that the the paper’s authors said the errors did not affect the conclusion of the article, which has been cited in other works dozens of times.

This brings the total number of retractions or withdrawals of papers on which Croce has helped author to seven.

Ivan Oransky, co-founder of the website Retraction Watch, which follows the scientific journal industry, says the bulk of allegations against Croce revolve around the duplication or tampering with of scientific images known as western blots.

“If you will, it’s the Photoshopping, not metaphorically but sometimes actually, of scientific images,” Oransky says.

Croce has repeatedly said any errors in his work were “honest errors,” while others in his field point to what they call a pattern of misconduct.

That includes David Sanders, a Purdue University professor who called Croce’s work “a reckless disregard for the truth.”

It took just a few weeks for Croce to file his lawsuit against the Times and Sanders. Croce claims the Times pieces was “riddled with venomous and defamatory falsehoods” and says Sanders made “verifiably false” claims about Croce committing scientific misconduct.

Oransky says one part of the lawsuit that he found strange was Croce’s claim that the Times was too liberal in calling him an author of the papers in question, when he was only what’s known as a middle author.

“When you’re a middle author, clearly you were not the (only) person responsible, but your name is on that paper. You signed it,” Oransky says. “(In) a byline in a newspaper, I don’t care if you’re first, second, or eighth in a team of reporters, you’re on there. You’re going to get the plaudits, you’re going to get the awards, and you’re also going to have to take the blame.”

Croce's attorney, Loriann Fuhrer, said in an emailed statement that the middle author issue is not minor and worth fighting over.

"The New York Times communicated to ordinary readers that Dr. Croce committed data falsification and plagiarism in 20 papers. Ordinary readers understood those 20 papers to relate to research conducted by Dr. Croce, or at least under his supervision. The fact of the matter is that the New York Times included among those 20, papers for which Dr. Croce did not perform or supervise the research, or write the paper."

Ohio State has never disciplined Croce, which some have said is part of a systemic issue in higher education in which institutions that covet research money largely police themselves.

In a statement emailed to WOSU on Tuesday, Ohio State spokesman Chris Davey wrote "The Ohio State University takes allegations of research misconduct very seriously. As a result of concerns related to Dr. Carlo Croce, the university launched an independent review of our systems for ensuring research integrity. Until that review is completed, the university will not comment on retractions related to Dr. Croce.