NIH Takes Steps to Address Sexual Harassment and Advance Inclusion in the Sciences
NIH Takes Steps to Address Sexual Harassment and Advance Inclusion in the Sciences

June 2019

During the month of June, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) took steps designed to address sexual harassment in the sciences and change the way women and other underrepresented groups are treated in the scholarly professions—especially the sciences.

On June 12, NIH Director Francis Collins released a statement in which he declared that it is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels, and that he will no longer take part in engagements that do not fairly evaluate scientists of all backgrounds for speaking opportunities.

“Starting now, when I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field,” said Collins. “Breaking up the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) bias that is preventing women and other groups underrepresented in science from achieving their rightful place in scientific leadership must begin at the top.”

The announcement follows the release of the recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which made clear the need for sweeping changes in the culture and climate of the academy and scholarly professions.

In addition, on June 14, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Michael Lauer, posted on his Open Mike blog about the announcement of a new NIH webform "that allows for anybody in the biomedical research community to share information related to a potential case of sexual harassment directly and, if desired, anonymously, to NIH."

Lauer noted that NIH can and will follow up on all concerns related to NIH-funded research submitted through the site, and he encouraged individuals to also report allegations of sexual harassment or assault to appropriate authorities.

“We and other societies applaud NIH for being a leading advocate of a culture change where sexual harassment and victimization are no longer common practice,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “These actions represent an important step in promoting inclusiveness in the sciences.”

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