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US Justice Department investigators want to know how academic scientists spend their time and the government's money. The department is making quiet inquiries at research institutions to determine how they've used their federal funding. Research executives would not say which schools the Department of Justice (DOJ) has approached, and department officials refuse to comment, as is their policy with matters under investigation.

The inquiries could go nowhere, or they could herald a return to past cycles of scrutiny by the department, which has enforcement powers anywhere federal dollars are spent. "I don't really know what it is that they're after," says Robert Killoren, incoming president of the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA). "It's such a pity. When we talk about accountability for the way our federal funds are spent, we shouldn't be dealing with accountants necessarily. We should be dealing with people who understand scientific research."...

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