In a statement released today, leaders at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledge that recent “…conversations have made it abundantly clear that NIH needs to do better in tackling the underlying culture that enables sexual harassment to take place, admit our contributions to perpetuating this culture, and elevate the seriousness with which the agency takes this issue through our actions.” The NIH outlines the initial actions it will take to increase the involvement of the NIH with the NIH extramural community regarding sexual harassment. More recommendations will follow once the newly launched Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment provides initial recommendations this summer and then a final report at the end of the year.
The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) strongly supports these actions by the NIH and looks forward to the recommendations by the Working Group. ASCB is a founding member of the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM. The consortium will make research- and evidence-based resources for addressing issues of sexual harassment to other professional organizations.
The initial steps being taken by the NIH focus on demonstrating both accountability and transparency, informing both institutions and investigators of NIH’s expectations, establishing a way of communication with the NIH, and most importantly, listening to victims of harassment.
The NIH’s statement issued today reports that in 2018 sexual harassment reports led to 14 PI’s being replaced on grant awards, 21 PI’s had faced disciplinary action by their home institutions, and 14 people were removed from peer review. The statement also indicates that 35 sexual harassment-related allegations against NIH employees or contractors have been investigated resulting in 20 formal and informal disciplinary actions.
NIH has also established an email address to receive concerns about sexual harassment. The email, GranteeHarassment@od.nih.gov, will be followed by additional, confidential avenues to report information about sexual harassment. These new avenues should be available in the next few weeks.
About the Author:
Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org