OSU Pharmacy College Faces Serious Issues

Tim Goral's picture

Research fraud, faculty infighting and federal lawsuits have plagued Ohio State University’s pharmacy college in recent years.

One prominent researcher, who is retiring after disputes with the college’s leadership, even called the working environment there “dishonorable.”

“Our college is just so messed up,” said the pharmacy professor, Jessie Lai-Sim Au.

Since 2007, two pharmacy college professors have sued Ohio State in federal court, alleging retaliation and discrimination, and at least four professors and a graduate student have been accused of research misconduct or misuse of grant funds. “This is a lot to be going on in a single college,” said Scott Jaschik, editor of the website Inside Higher Ed and a former editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

He noted that he’s unfamiliar with the details of the pharmacy college’s cases. “Research misconduct is very serious, and universities do not want to be known as places with multiple research misconduct cases — period.”

In an interview with The Dispatch, the college’s dean, Robert Brueggemeier, said the university is placing a greater emphasis on research ethics, including a class on the topic that will be required of students and “strongly urged” for faculty members.

The class was prompted by National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health requirements that students involved in federally funded research receive ethics training, a university spokesman said.Brueggemeier said the “vast majority” of the college’s 60 faculty members are “collegial and very collaborative.”

A few faculty members who didn’t “fit” in that environment have moved on, he said.

“We have strong personalities. Sometimes, conflicts arise,” said Brueggemeier, who is stepping down as dean in June after 10 years in the job but will remain a professor in the college.

The university defended the pharmacy college, calling it dynamic and “one of the best in the nation.” Brueggemeier said the conflicts within the college won’t disrupt its drug-development pipeline. Two potentially viable cancer drugs discovered and developed at the college are now in clinical trials.

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