A briefcase, containing preliminary results on almost 500 researchers, has been stolen from a cafe on the Auckland University of Technology campus.
The Tertiary Education Commission said the preliminary assessments were on researchers who are allocated about $250 million of funding every year based on merit.
Deputy chair Colin Webb said the briefcase contained names and commercially sensitive comments about research which must be returned and must not be released into the public domain.
Police are investigating and all researchers have been sent a letter through their institutions.
Mr Webb said the panel member from whom the briefcase was stolen early on Wednesday morning, is very embarrassed.