Division director leaving U.S. research watchdog after nearly 15 years

Susan Garfinkel

The director of the Division of Investigative Oversight at the U.S. Office of Research Integrity is leaving the agency.

Susan Garfinkel told Retraction Watch that her last day is November 10. She is taking a position as assistant vice president in the Office of Research Compliance at The Ohio State University (OSU).

Garfinkel declined to comment on why she was leaving the agency:

This is a personal decision that I’ve made.

Garfinkel joined ORI in 2003. As director of the Division of Investigative Oversight, she managed the team of investigators who oversaw the misconduct probes conducted by institutions, and proposed findings and administrative actions against people found guilty of misconduct.

Her departure follows a tumultuous period at the ORI, including the appointment of a new director, Kathy Partin (who began the last week of 2015), reports of staff unrest, and threats to resign. In addition, the agency appears on the outside to be somewhat less productive: It issued only seven findings of misconduct in 2016, compared to 14 in 2015 and 11 the year before. Partin spoke with us earlier this year about the issues facing the agency.

Garfinkel may not find her new position particularly relaxing. The OSU has recently faced questions about it had handled an investigation into one of its star faculty, Carlo Croce. This isn’t the first time the institution has been forced to take a second look at an investigation: Several years ago, the OSU found a pharmacy researcher guilty of misconduct after the ORI urged it to reopen the case.

The institution has been in the news for other reasons recently: In August, OSU revoked the PhD of a researcher who co-authored a paper about video games that was retracted earlier this year; in May, the senior author of a lawsuit-spawning study of the CrossFit exercise program resigned from his post one day after the paper was retracted.

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7 thoughts on “Division director leaving U.S. research watchdog after nearly 15 years”

  1. Revolving door at ORI. A big part of their problem is they are a toothless tiger – they have very limited resources to combat the huge and growing problem of scientific fraud. The crooks taking advantage of this weak enforcement by ORI are laughing all the way to the bank.

  2. Congratulations to Susan. OSU is great school with a good compliance program. I’ve worked with Susan and others who have departed ORI recently. Their expertise will not be replaced easily.

  3. I have two contradictory reactions. One is, “Maybe Susan can help OSU clean up its act.” The other is, “Maybe OSU is looking for someone to help OSU capitalize on ORI regulatory loopholes.” A subsequent reduction in findings of fraudulent activity at OSU is open to either interpretation.

    1. Very odd responses.

      Surely there can be more than two (and derogatory at that) responses. A third one–are things are so bad at ORI that she, like Zoe Hammatt before her, could no longer work there?

  4. Kathy
    A subsequent reduction in findings of fraudulent activity at OSU is open to either interpretation.

    Surely that would depend on the time-span referred to by “subsequent”—at least on the (reasonable?) assumptions that (1) some investigations of possible “fraudulent activity at OSU” are presently underway but not yet at the stage of “findings”, (2) such investigations generally take a long time to complete (i.e., reach the stage at which “findings” exist), and (3) the long-term ratio of negative findings to positive findings is neither close to 0 nor close to 1.

  5. This seems like a fast turnaround. As fas as I recall, John Dahlberg used to be director of the DIO, and he only just retired in spring 2015. That would put Garfinkel’s time in the post at around 2 years – a little on the short side.

    Regarding the OSU move, this may be part of a long runing pattern where former government employees are able to land Deanships and other admin’ roles in the hinterlands of academia. Case in point Sally Rockey left NIH and was courted by UNL (http://news.unl.edu/newsrooms/today/article/fourth-nu-presidential-finalist-to-visit-campus/). Former NHLBI director Beth Nabel is now President at HMS Brig’. etc.

  6. Based on the ORI staff page since getting a new director, the body count includes two division directors, three scientist investigators, and two education staff. Theresa Defino’s outlook might be the most accurate.

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