The appropriate treatment of misconduct allegations is time consuming and costly, and it diverts faculty and administrative attention from other matters. Questions about the integrity of an individual also create enormous emotional stress; at least two incidents of suicide have been associated with the investigation of misconduct allegations.
Some authors have noted that confusion exists about the nature of the investigative stage in both university and governmental investigations of misconduct in science.14 Criminal and civil legal procedures traditionally distinguish between “investigations” and “adjudications” for purposes of due process analysis (Andersen, 1988). “Investigations” are commonly thought to be fact-gathering processes that precede formal charges. “Adjudications” are deliberations as to the guilt or innocence of the individual who has been charged. However, many institutional policies and procedures for addressing misconduct in science do not specify this distinction. Thus in some cases, findings of guilt or innocence, rather than charges of misconduct, may result from an investigative panel's deliberations, leading to criticism that appropriate due process concerns were not met in the investigation.
As a result, the amount of confidentiality appropriate for the investigative stage has not been clearly resolved. Research institutions are required by NSF and PHS regulations to inform the research sponsor when investigations have been initiated, and some observers have suggested that moving from an inquiry to an investigation is thus comparable to an indictment by the courts. Many individuals in the scientific community have complained that the reputation of a subject of a misconduct investigation is damaged simply by the announcement that an investigation has been initiated—before the completion of the investigation and before the subject of the investigation has had an opportunity to confront witnesses or respond to evidence. Confusion is also compounded by the fact that many scientists and others view the imposition of formal charges of misconduct in science as a de facto adjudicatory decision.
The panel believes that institutional procedures should define explicit and clear criteria that are to be used in determining when a misconduct inquiry should proceed to a more formal investigation. The panel concludes that administrative officials and faculty have a responsibility to inform all members of their institution, espe cially junior personnel, of existing channels for handling complaints about misconduct in science or other misconduct.