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July 20, 2019

NIH should ask both institutions and investigators to report sexual harassment findings

first_img To combat sexual harassment in biomedical research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) should ask grant applicants directly whether they have been found guilty of sexual harassment and require institutions to tell NIH about any such findings, as well as investigations. Those recommendations were released today by a working group advising NIH about how to bolster its policies in this hot-button area.The group also urged NIH to help victims of sexual harassment rebuild their careers, and it called for the Bethesda, Maryland–based agency to give trainees more independence from their mentors. NIH Director Francis Collins welcomed the advice. “I’m happy the recommendations are quite bold,” he said after a presentation to his Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD). But, he added, much remains to be fleshed out, including what legal constraints the agency faces in following through.Mounting concerns about sexual harassment in science have prompted research agencies to examine their policies. The National Science Foundation (NSF) last fall began to require that institutions report when a principal investigator (PI) has been found guilty of sexual harassment. But although NIH has expressed concern, apologized to victims, and added a new way to report allegations, it has held off on new policies—instead appointing a working group that in February began to explore possible changes. NIH should ask both institutions and investigators to report sexual harassment findings, advisory group says Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country By Jocelyn KaiserJun. 13, 2019 , 9:30 PM Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe The working group today issued four interim recommendations. The first is that sexual harassment be treated “as seriously as research misconduct.” That would not mean adding it to the federal definition of research misconduct (now defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism) but instead establishing “parallel mechanisms.”In particular, NIH should require that institutions tell the agency about investigations and findings involving any kind of professional misconduct—including sexual harassment—within 1 week of an investigation’s start or a finding being issued. NSF’s new policy requires reporting about any harassment findings and any administrative actions that have been taken in connection with a harassment allegation, such as putting the investigator on leave. The report also recommends NIH set up a hotline for reporting sexual and other misconduct and work with other agencies to develop standard operating procedures for responding to investigations and findings.A second recommendation is to require PIs and co-PIs to “attest” on grant applications and progress reports that they have not violated and will not violate their institution’s code of professional conduct. A specific question might ask whether the applicant has been found guilty or been involved in a settlement involving sexual harassment or other misconduct within the past 7 years.A third recommendation is that NIH “recapture lost talent,” for example by encouraging sexual harassment survivors to apply to programs that help researchers restart their careers after dropping out for reasons such as having a baby. Finally, NIH should make more training awards directly to individual trainees, rather than to institutions or mentors; the idea is that if trainees have greater control over their financial support, they have greater power in the PI-trainee relationship, and less to lose if they report or push back against harassing behavior.Some members of the ACD questioned how the 7-year self-reporting limit was set. The working group didn’t want a PI to be “branded for life,” explained working group co-chair and NIH Associate Director for Science Policy Carrie Wolinetz. Others noted that PIs who commit research misconduct are often barred from receiving federal grants for 3 years, but sometimes the ban is for life.The appropriate time limit is one issue the working group will look at before it issues a final report in December, said co-chair Kristina Johnson, chancellor of the State University of New York system. Another is whether staff on a grant who are not a PI or co-PI should also be covered by the proposed policies.The working group did not discuss what NIH should do in response to reports of sexual harassment findings or investigations, which would go to staff but not study sections. “It’s going to be up to staff to figure out” how to respond, Collins said. NIH officials say implementing some of the recommendations could require a formal rulemaking process; the agency has previously said that hurdle prevented it from adopting NSF’s reporting policy. One prominent #MeTooSTEM activist was pleased with the report. “There are a lot of good things about these recommendations,” says BethAnn McLaughlin of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. One is that NIH would be more directly involved in sanctioning PIs who commit sexual harassment instead of leaving such actions to universities.McLaughlin also finds “hugely inspiring” new data that NIH shared disciplinary actions involving sexual harassment. In February, the agency said that in 2018 in response to 28 incidents, 14 PIs had been replaced on grants and institutions had disciplined 21 PIs; two people had been removed as peer reviewers. So far this year, NIH said it has received 31 inquiries involving 27 investigators and removed five PIs from grants, and 19 from peer review.Cases involving NIH’s own staff have also gone up: In 2018, the agency reviewed 35 allegations, formally disciplined 10 staff members, and informally disciplined 10 staff members. Since January, NIH has reviewed 171 allegations and taken actions against seven staff formally, and 27 informally.*Clarification, 14 June, 3:20 p.m.: The description of NSF’s sexual harassment policy has been clarified. Lydia Polimeni/National Institutes of Health Emaillast_img read more

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