prior to awarding research funds or making advisory committee appointments involving a subject of such an investigation.
Panel Findings and Conclusions About Use of the PHS ALERT System. The conflicting views about issues related to confidentiality were considered by the panel. Fairness requires that the subject of misconduct investigations should have an opportunity to respond to charges and evidence before the findings of the investigation are communicated to others. In some cases, the first public notice of a misconduct-in-science affair has come with the release of a draft report of an investigation, before the subject has had an opportunity to respond. This situation cannot be tolerated.
The use of the PHS ALERT system in disclosing the identities of individuals who are under investigation for possible misconduct in science is a serious flaw in the fairness of current governmental policies and procedures. It is possible that incomplete information and unsubstantiated allegations may jeopardize research awards or governmental appointments and that individual scientists may be victimized by premature release of draft investigative reports. The panel concludes that government agencies should suspend the practice of disseminating notices of misconduct-in-science investigations in the PHS ALERT system until formal charges of misconduct of science have been filed.
Responsibility for handling investigations and monitoring allegations of misconduct in science in NSF programs and operations rests with the NSF's OIG. This office, established by the Inspector General Act Amendments of 1988,16 also has responsibility for handling audits of grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements funded by NSF, the financial misconduct of employees in connection with their duties, as well as conflicts of interest involving NSF programs. Responsibility for adjudication of findings of investigatory reports resides with the Office of the NSF Director. Working with the general counsel and the National Science Board, the NSF's director formulates NSF regulations on misconduct in science, often in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the PHS. The OIG implements the portion of the regulations that have to do with investigating misconduct in science. It publishes a semiannual report each year for the Congress documenting its efforts and providing summary data as well as specific examples of misconduct-in-science cases that have been addressed by the office.