All research institutions that receive PHS funds must now provide assurances that they have adopted policies and procedures to handle allegations of misconduct in science. NSF also requires that a grantee institution have such policies and procedures if that institution wishes NSF to defer to it for purposes of inquiry and investigation of misconduct cases. Because research institutions are able to design their own misconduct policies and procedures, institutional responses to federal regulatory requirements are very diverse. At present consensus is lacking about which procedural approaches are adequate responses to federal regulatory requirements, and institutional and governmental officials frequently disagree over fundamental matters of openness, completeness, or timeliness.4
Institutions that receive PHS research awards are required to submit to the DHHS's Office of Scientific Integrity Review (OSIR) an initial assurance and annual reports of compliance indicating that they have adopted policies and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in science. PHS officials review research and training grant applications to determine whether the institutional assurance requirement has been met and may request copies of the institution's policies for addressing misconduct in science. However, they do not certify the acceptability of such institutional policies. PHS officials have judged some institutional investigative reports to be inadequate, even though the reports complied with local institutional policy and procedures for handling misconduct in science.
Government regulations require that institutional policies and procedures include two separate stages: an inquiry and an investigation. An inquiry—a preliminary review of the complaint and other information to determine if there is sufficient basis for an investigation of alleged misconduct—does not yield a judgment on the question of guilt, although it can determine that an allegation lacks merit.5 An investigation is a formal examination and evaluation of relevant information to determine whether misconduct has occurred. Such an investigation, often using a standing committee or an ad hoc panel of experts, produces a report that includes findings, and possibly recommendations, that form the basis for an adjudicatory decision by a responsible institutional official. In cases where institutions find misconduct in science, government officials may recommend penalties