SALT LAKE CITY -- With the future of Utah's cold fusion research program hanging in the balance, the saga of two scientists who claimed last year to have discovered fusion in a jar slipped further into the realm of comedy when neither showed up for a critical meeting to reassess state funding for the program.

Earlier this week, University of Utah officials said they did not know where the two scientists, B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, had gone and did not know how to contact them. But yesterday a committee that will decide the fate of the program voted to order them to appear, and Pons, reached by telephone, agreed to a Nov. 7 session.

The phone call appeared to salve the panel's irritation with the scientists. "We are perfectly willing to fund the work, but we do expect accountability," said Raymond Hixson, council chairman. "We must know what we are getting for the money."

Pons, who requested a sabbatical this week, and Fleischmann, who lives in Britain, announced in March 1989 that they had achieved a nuclear fusion reaction in a tabletop experiment that produced more energy in the form of heat than was used to run it. The claim was met with skepticism and only a few scientists have reported achieving the same result.