Relevant info and background:
I'm an engineering Post Doc at an American university. One of my roles is to basically function as a 'project manager' for a couple projects that have a number of Graduate-level RAs working on them. I have a good relationship with all the RAs and all are hard-working.
I'm convinced that one of the graduate RAs is falsifying computational results/data (also called "rigging data" by many) in some cases. Note that the individual appears to be doing this for only some cases, not all. I have many reasons to believe this, but here is a few: (1) inability to replicate various results, (2) finishing the work at a pace I think is not feasible, (3) finishing his work at home where he surely does not have the software environment to actually complete the work. There are also other reasons I believe this to be the case, but you get the point. I'm also convinced this has occurred for over 1 semester, so I probably need to report this since I am responsible for overseeing all the work. However, the student in general is a good person and hard worker. He has passed the preliminary exams and is finished with all classes - I'd hate to see him expelled from the university since he's this far into the program.
I have some questions:
What do you think could be the maximum punishment for this grad student/researcher? I'd feel terrible if it resulted in expulsion. I would think that you would have to receive at least one warning from the university before an expulsion, except in very extreme cases. I'd be fine if this resulted in suspension, and even losing funding, but for anything more I'd feel bad. What is the standard maximum punishment for these cases? Also, what is the most likely punishment?
What is the punishment for me if I don't report this problem? For instance, say I just pretended ignorance. It is extremely unlikely I would do this, but it's worth asking.
How common is this? I would think this happens once in a while - a grad student decides to be lazy and fabricate a small portion of the overall results to avoid working the weekend or something. An experienced professional would know this is seriously wrong, but not necessarily a mid-level PhD student.
Any advice from people with experience in this, professors, grad students, principle investigators, etc would be great