Washington State University is committed to advancing, extending, and applying knowledge across the full range of scholarly disciplines pursued at WSU. The Office of Research fosters a culture of inclusion, openness, innovation, and entrepreneurship that leads to creative discovery and its application in an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation.
Over the last nine months, both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have released statements regarding sexual harassment. The NSF statement announced new measures to protect the research community from harassment. For additional information, please visit the NSF Sexual Harassment webpage. The NIH statement outlines actions that NIH is taking to become part of the solution to address sexual harassment in science. For additional information, please visit the NIH Anti-Sexual Harassment: for NIH Awardee Organizations and Those Who Work There webpage.
WSU also fosters an environment of open communication and is committed to protecting individuals from retaliation who participate or engage in protected activities. As a result, we are sharing both the NSF and the NIH statements below.
NSF Statement on new measures to protect research community from harassment
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken the next steps in its agency-wide effort to ensure the research and learning environments it supports are free from harassment, publishing a term and condition that requires awardee organizations to report findings and determinations of sexual harassment, as well as establishing a secure online portal for submitting harassment notifications.
On Sept. 21, 2018, NSF published a term and condition for awards, to become effective 30 days after publication that will require awardee organizations to notify the agency of:
• Any findings or determinations that an NSF-funded principal investigator or co-principal investigator committed harassment, including sexual harassment or sexual assault.
• The placement of the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on administrative leave, or of the imposition of any administrative action relating to a harassment or sexual assault finding or investigation.
NSF will consult with the awardee organization, and determine what action is necessary under NSF’s authority. NSF actions may include substituting or removing principal investigators or co-principal investigators, reducing award funding, and — where neither of those options is available or adequate — suspending or terminating awards.
It is NSF policy that all personnel supported by NSF awards must comport themselves in a responsible and accountable manner during the award performance period at awardee institutions, field sites, facilities, conferences, workshops, online and everywhere NSF-funded science and education is conducted.
For details on the new requirements, see the NSF fact sheet.
In February 2018, NSF announced a proposed term and condition, providing public notice by posting it for comment in the Federal Register. NSF received nearly 200 comments during the 60-day comment period.
NSF has worked with university, association and industry partners to finalize the term and condition. The comments and NSF’s responses will be available for public viewing when the notice is posted Sept. 21, 2018.
The recent National Academies report, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, commissioned in 2016 by the NSF’s Office of Integrative Activities, highlights the timeliness of NSF’s new actions. As the primary funder of U.S. basic science and engineering research, NSF is committed to creating a more inclusive STEM culture and climate.
To improve accountability, NSF encourages anyone with a harassment complaint involving an NSF-funded researcher to report the incident to their institution and visit NSF’s sexual harassment webpage. From that site, individuals can submit harassment complaints directly to the NSF Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The webpage also includes “promising practices” on policies, effective codes of conduct and standards of behavior that may be applied everywhere NSF-supported research is conducted, as well as frequently asked questions.
Statement from NSF Director France Córdova:
Throughout its history, NSF has served as a leader, supporting and shaping the U.S. research community. This action furthers that proud tradition, and recognizes that, at times, the scientific community has not sufficiently protected all of its members. For the good of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise, this neglect must end. This new policy is intended to provide targeted, serious consequences for harassers. It gives people tools to make harassment stop without disturbing others’ careers and lives.
NSF is committed to ensuring the safety and security of the people our awards support. When that safety is endangered through the actions of someone associated with an NSF award, the foundation will work to replace that person while preserving support for responsible members of the community. We will continue to work with awardee institutions to carefully consider each case.
NSF’s actions on this complex and challenging issue will not stop here. There are sure to be unforeseen challenges, even with all the discussion with and support from our partners. In the coming months, we will continue to listen to the research community and monitor our progress.
For more information, visit NSF.gov/harassment.
NIH Statement on efforts to address sexual harassment in science
As the NIH Director stated in September, sexual harassment is about power. The goal of the perpetrator, most commonly but not exclusively a man, is to objectify, exclude, demoralize, diminish, and coerce the victim, most commonly a woman, to exert power over her. It’s morally indefensible, it’s unacceptable, and it presents a major obstacle that is keeping women from achieving their rightful place in science.
Victims of harassment know this all too well. Sexual harassment does not just damage the careers of those who have encountered it, it can leave deep scars and psychological effects that reverberate for a lifetime. The reports of scientists and students shared through the #MeTooSTEM movement portray a heartbreaking story of opportunities lost, pain suffered, and a systemic failure to protect and defend. To all those who have endured these experiences, we are sorry that it has taken so long to acknowledge and address the climate and culture that has caused such harm. The National Academies report on sexual harassment of women in science found that “federal agencies may be perpetuating the problem of sexual harassment.” We are concerned that NIH has been part of the problem. We are determined to become part of the solution.
This month, the Working Group of the Advisory Council to the Director (ACD) on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment met for the first time and heard from a wide-range of experts and perspectives, including Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin, whose leadership of the #MeTooSTEM movement has provided a voice for victims of harassment. We have heard similar, harrowing accounts from scientists in the NIH intramural program during meetings of the NIH Anti-Harassment Committee. These 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 discussions of the ACD Working Group, who will report interim recommendations in June and provide a final report and recommendations to the ACD in December, centered around a number of themes that were similar to those identified by our internal Anti-Harassment Committee. As the senior leadership of NIH, we are taking actions including those listed below, and we look forward to receiving the ACD recommendations and other input to strengthen our efforts:
Demonstrating accountability and transparency: We want to send a clear message to the institutions we fund and researchers who lead the research that sexual harassment is unacceptable. Discussions from both the NIH Anti-Harassment Committee and the ACD Working Group strongly endorsed an ethos of transparency and accountability to demonstrate the agency’s serious commitment to addressing harassment and deterring future inappropriate behavior. To bolster that transparency and accountability, we want to be clear that NIH has not and will not just look the other way when accusations come to our attention. In 2018, NIH followed up on sexual harassment-related concerns at more than two dozen institutions resulting in the replacement of 14 principal investigators named on NIH grant awards, disciplinary actions taken by awardee institutions against 21 principal investigators including termination of employment, and removal of 14 individuals from peer review. Over that same time period, NIH conducted administrative inquiries into 35 allegations of a sexual nature by NIH staff (both federal employees and government contractors). While some of these incidents remain under review, formal disciplinary actions ranging from reprimand to termination of employment were taken against 10 staff members, and informal disciplinary actions, including counseling/training and cease and desist warnings, were taken against another 10 staff members.
We recognize these numbers seem small compared to the disheartening incidence of sexual harassment described in the recent National Academies report, but we are continuing to expand our outreach to the extramural community to bring these concerns to our attention, and have enhanced our internal systems to act on all allegations of sexual harassment.
Clarifying expectations for institutions and investigators to ensure a safe workplace and inform the agency: If a principal investigator or other key personnel named on an NIH grant award is no longer able to fulfill their obligations to conduct research because they are under investigation or have been removed from the workplace because of sexual harassment concerns, NIH requires institutions to notify the agency of this change. The ACD Working Group discussions revealed that the requirement and appropriate timeline to notify NIH of changes in the status of key personnel named on an NIH grant award is unclear in the current guidance.
Those discussions, and ultimately the ACD’s recommendations, will help inform further actions, including clarifications in our guidance. In the meantime, NIH will provide written communication to the leaders of all NIH-funded and applicant institutions outlining NIH’s expectations relating to preventing and addressing sexual harassment, including the expectation that awarded institutions have implemented policies and practices that foster a harassment-free environment; maintain clear, unambiguous professional codes of conduct; ensure employees are fully aware and regularly reminded of applicable laws, regulations, policies, and codes of conduct; provide an accessible, effective, and easy process to report sexual harassment, and protection from retaliation; and respond promptly to allegations to ensure the immediate safety for all involved, investigate the allegations, and take appropriate sanctions.
Providing clear channels of communication to NIH: We can and will take action if there are concerns that sexual harassment is affecting NIH-funded research. For concerns related to NIH-funded research, an email can be sent to GranteeHarassment@od.nih.gov. We are working to create additional channels intended for confidential sharing of such information and hope to make those available in the next several weeks. While this communication does not constitute or substitute for a report of sexual harassment for legal action or investigation, NIH will follow up with the relevant applicant/grantee institution on all concerns related to NIH-funded research. NIH also strongly encourages people to report allegations of sexual harassment or assault to the appropriate authorities, which may include your local police department or your organization/institution equal employment opportunity (EEO) or human resources offices. Individuals may contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to obtain additional information and file a complaint. Please see NIH’s Anti-Sexual Harassment website for other information and resources.
Listening to victims and survivors of sexual harassment and incorporating their perspectives into future actions: Just as patients remind us every day why medical research is about real people, we cannot forget the intensely personal impact of sexual harassment. Those people whose careers or lives have been derailed by sexual harassment provide a critical voice in shaping the agency’s next steps in helping them re-enter the research workforce and reminding the entire research enterprise of the urgent need for culture change. NIH leadership, the NIH Anti-Harassment Committee, and the ACD Working Group are committed to working with scientists affected by sexual harassment and gender discrimination and will be planning listening sessions to provide a forum for input on proposed recommendations to the ACD.
These steps are only the beginning and are not meant to usurp the charge of the ACD Working Group, which will result in concrete recommendations to the ACD, or the continuing efforts of the internal NIH Anti-Harassment Committee. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, and we are confident that these two groups, with the input of all affected communities, will provide a roadmap for meaningful and sustainable culture change.
We can do better. We must do better.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director
Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., Principal Deputy Director and Chair, NIH Anti-Harassment Committee
Carrie D. Wolinetz, Ph.D., Acting Chief of Staff, Associate Director for Science Policy, and Co-Chair ACD WG on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment
Michael S. Lauer, M.D., Deputy Director for Extramural Research
Michael M. Gottesman, M.D., Deputy Director for Intramural Research
Hannah A. Valantine, M.D., Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity
Alfred C. Johnson, Ph.D., Deputy Director for Management
National Institutes of Health