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Scientific Misconduct: Part 2 - What are your Constitutional rights? (cont'd)

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Conclusions

In the remainder of the case, the court discussed the technical requirements for promulgating federal administrative rules. The court concluded that the Public Health Service had not fully complied with these rules. The court required the Public Health Service to publish the regulations in the Federal Register and allow a period for public comment. This was done on 13 June 1991.

This case respects the rights of researchers and institutions to a hearing and other due process protections when they face the termination of existing grants or disqualification for future grants. Except for these extreme actions, the court found that the Office of Extramural Research, and its successor, the Office of Scientific Inquiry, may conduct investigations and place individuals in the ALERT system without providing affected persons a hearing or an opportunity to inspect or comment on the agency's evidence.

Most importantly, the court explicitly rejected Professor Abbs claim that the agency violated his constitutional rights by damaging his reputation. While finding that researchers have a constitutionally protected interest not to be directly excluded from their occupations, it rejected claims based on indirect exclusion through reputational injuries. This is consistent with administrative agency procedures in other investigatory actions. It ignores the critical importance of personal reputation in the competition for scarce research funds and academic advancement.

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