government agencies have made mistakes in investigations of complex cases, such as appointing to investigatory panels members who have personal or professional ties to the individuals who have been accused of misconduct in science. All these factors foster a perception that research institutions are not dealing effectively with misconduct in science,6 prompting criticism of the speed, rigor, honesty, fairness, and openness of their response mechanisms.
Many universities have now established policies and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in science, and some research institutions have acquired valuable experience in implementing these procedures to deal with cases of misconduct. However, the legal and procedural issues associated with misconduct-in-science investigations are extraordinarily complex, and there is little case law in the public record to guide and inform analysis of these issues.
The panel believes that, in general, the current and evolving system of government and institutional relationships requires more experience and adjustments before specific policy or procedural changes Can be recommended. Research institutions need to clarify their own approaches and judgments on these issues before any general consensus can be reached on procedural matters.
Part of the difficulty in developing vigorous and effective institutional responses to incidents or allegations of misconduct in science arises from variation in and disagreement about essential elements of fairness, completeness, and objectivity that should characterize investigations. Effective responses are impeded also by recurring patterns of denial by some institutional officials and faculty members who believe that misconduct in science is not a serious matter. The pressures of conducting an objective investigation of complaints involving respected or prestigious scientists cannot be underestimated. Strong and informed leadership is needed to clarify procedural matters and to ensure that allegations or apparent incidents of misconduct in science are not ignored or covered up.
Institutional policies and procedures should include a common entry point for handling complaints from the outset; clear procedures are necessary for determining which type of alleged offenses will be reviewed by administrative staff or faculty. A sequence of steps to achieve resolution of significant disputes is required. All of these steps require clear separations between each of the following groups: the affected parties, those who are judging the seriousness of the complaint and formulating the evidentiary base to substantiate charges,