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Outsourcing Woes

November 22, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 47

In “The Grand Experiment,” the author states that Merck & Co. targets 25% external R&D and that AstraZeneca is striving for 40% (C&EN, Oct. 25, page 20). I recently talked to all the project managers who oversee our current collaborations. The stories of naivety, incompetence, and missed deadlines among the partners were legion. The big pharma managers mostly used in-house resources and expertise to paper over the cracks. At least that was off the record.

When asked whether they had reported these problems up the chain of command, the answer was always no. The reasons?
■ “If we have four collaborations and mine is the only one reporting problems, which three project managers do you think will get a bonus?”
■ “They won’t believe me, they will just think I am trying to protect jobs here.”
■ “You can’t swim against the tide.”
■ “When it goes bad here, I might be able to get a job with the 
■ “My next job will be outside chemistry as a project manager. The last thing I need is any negative vibes around this collaboration.”

So, as far as senior management knows, it is all going very well. Perceptive senior managers, of course, would have thought more carefully about the motivations of their reportees and judged the likely quality of the incoming information accordingly.

Unfortunately I can’t attach my name and organization. I need a job, too, and telling the truth is not always that popular, as many outsourcing managers have experienced.

Senior medicinal chemist
Large pharma



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