Legislation Introduced to Address Harassment in Science

October 2018

On October 5, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act. The legislation builds upon the findings and recommendations of the National Academies report “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.”

The bill aims to address sexual harassment in the sciences by providing funding for additional research and encouraging uniform policy guidelines at federal agencies that award more than $100 million in research grants.

Other provisions of the bill include:

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) would have the authority to award grants to better understand the consequences of and factors influencing sexual harassment in STEM fields and to study ways to reduce the incidence and negative impacts of harassment.
  • A working group of federal statistical agencies would develop questions on harassment in STEM departments to include in surveys conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.
  • NSF would work with the National Academies to update “On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research” to incorporate the recommendations of the National Academies’ “Sexual Harassment of Women” report.

On introduction of the bill, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine issued the following statement:

Sexual harassment in the academic workplace has been far too prevalent for far too long and must be eliminated. With this legislation, Congress has an opportunity to make a real difference through concrete, action-oriented steps directed to the pernicious problems so well identified in the recent National Academies consensus report.

It is critical to the nation’s scientific enterprise that we have an evidence-based understanding of the causes and consequences of sexual harassment, are gathering national data on sexual harassment, promoting responsible workplace behavior, and coordinating federal science agency efforts in these areas. We applaud the introduction of this bill and urge its swift passage into law.

Beyond supporting this important legislation, AERA is working with the broader scientific community to help transform a culture of sexual harassment in the academy and scholarly professions.

Sara Barber, a staff member on the Subcommittee on Research and Technology, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, discussed the legislation with AERA leadership during this month’s Coordinated Committee Meetings (CCM), where she thanked the science policy community for its support for the bill.