In some cases, whistle-blowers may seek anonymity as a protection against reprisals and discrimination, especially while an inquiry or investigation is in the early stages of development. While such anonymity may be desirable, there may be practical constraints in assuring confidentiality in a highly specialized research area or in a small research team.
When reprisals against whistle-blowers are discovered, the responsible individuals should be punished in accord with the severity of the reprisals. The standards for examining complaints about possible reprisals in the academic environment should be consistent with those developed for federal employees under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.39
In the wake of procedural and policy reforms in response to incidents of misconduct in science, representatives from the academic and scientific community have raised concerns about the long-term or unintended effects that might result from institutional or governmental intrusions into the research environment.40 Aggressive efforts to control research practices, if carried to an extreme, can damage the research enterprise. Balance is required. Inflexible rules or requirements can increase the time and effort necessary to conduct research, can discourage creative individuals from pursuing research careers, can decrease innovation, and can in some instances make the research process impossible. Governmental or regulatory efforts to define “correct” research conduct or analytical practices can do fundamental harm to research activities if such efforts encourage orthodoxy and rigidity and inhibit novel or creative research practices.
However, the panel concludes that allegations and incidents of misconduct in science require a vigorous institutional response and that the methods used by research institutions and government to address allegations of misconduct in science need improvement. Research institutions sometimes require advice or assistance in addressing allegations of misconduct in science because of the complexities of these cases or because their faculty or administrators are reluctant to address in a systematic manner complaints or suspicions about possible misconduct in science. Research institutions have not developed mechanisms for broad exchange of information and experience in resolving difficult cases and consequently lack opportunities for learning from each other. On several occasions, institutional officials have waited for direction from government agencies before