Decisions regarding alleged misconduct procedures, both of a scholarly and nonscholarly nature, should yield a just decision based on the best, and most complete, information available. Any decisions should be based on the expert judgment of individuals qualified in the respective scientific field, using scientific interpretations and standards of proof, with a minimum of procedural complications. At the same time, however, the process must be fair and afford all parties an equal chance to present their best arguments.
The confidentiality of all parties in a dispute must be preserved to the extent consistent with Rensselaer's obligations to research sponsors and to the scientific community. Acrimony and recriminations are undesirable, so adversarial interactions should be avoided to the extent possible. Yet in an open society it is essential that the respondent has the opportunity to respond to the complaint. The process should move speedily, in accord with the reporting requirements of the sponsoring agency, yet haste and error must be avoided.
Guided by these principles, Rensselaer has established a policy with four procedural stages, a description of which follows. In the screening stage an accusation is brought to the Provost who will examine the charges to ensure they describe potential violations of Institute policy and, if so, to pass the case along to an Inquiry Panel. The inquiry stage evaluates the merits of the case, determining whether there is sufficient evidence of misconduct to merit a full investigation. The investigation stage entails a detailed examination of the case to resolve the facts ("Was this or was this not an instance of misconduct?"). Ascertaining whether or not misconduct occurred is a judgment about collegial conduct that should be resolved on its merits. If at any stage in the process it becomes evident that there was no misconduct, vigorous efforts must be made to minimize and remedy any adverse consequences for the respondent’s career and reputation. If misconduct is established, then the case is referred to the disciplinary stage.