Re: I must be missing something...
The frustrating thing is that for txt files there is a nice import wizard on open that allows you to set, among other things, the type of each column, so you can label the sensitive ones as text, but CSVs just open and you don't get to stop Excel from doing nasty things to them.
The workaround is to change the extension to txt before opening, but I'm sure that a lot of people in those research institutes aren't aware of it and don't know how or don't even have the permission to make Windows show extension for known types.
The additional problem with CSVs and Excel is regional formatting, because a lot of times a CSV gets exported under one set of local settings and then opened on another computer with different ones, such as reversed decimal and thousands separator (probably more prevalent in the Balkans, where half the computers run with US settings and half with local, but any large international cooperative is likely to bump into something like that).
Excel and CSVs, definitely not a match made in heaven, but if MS simply added an import wizard such as the one for txt files, it would almost make things bearable.