The recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2022 includes “Section 239,” which is a milestone in our efforts to ensure safe working conditions for people engaged in NIH-supported research. The law requires NIH grant recipients to notify us when their senior key personnel are removed from their position or are otherwise disciplined due to concerns about harassment, bullying, retaliation, or hostile working conditions. This is a major step in our continued effort to change the culture of harassment in biomedical science.
A year ago, we began requiring plans to enhance and strengthen diversity in applications seeking funding for scientific conferences and meetings. Building on these efforts, we are now asking recipients to proactively show how they will address safety and harassment.
In our continued effort to address sexual harassment, the NIH has implemented some of the recommendations of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment.
If there are concerns that sexual harassment is affecting an NIH-funded project, we want to know about it. NIH takes the same rigorous approach to addressing allegations involving sexual harassment as we do other integrity issues. We have added a web page that highlights the detailed steps NIH takes when we receive notification of a concern.
Sexual harassment is a serious and long-standing issue within the biomedical research enterprise, and NIH is striving to be part of the solution. On this episode of the “All About Grants” podcast, we sit down with Dr. Jodi Black, Deputy Director for the NIH’s Office of Extramural Research, to discuss what institutions, investigators, and others in the research community should know about NIH’s policies and expectations for assuring a safe and harassment-free work environment.
As part of our continued efforts, we are pleased to announce a new 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. The establishment of this webform, in tandem with other actions, is taken as part of our continuing commitment to address the underlying culture that enables sexual harassment to take place.
Today we released a very important statement outlining actions NIH is taking to become part of the solution to address sexual harassment in science. I am including the full text of the statement below, as it speaks for itself. For additional information please visit our webpage.
NIH takes the issue of sexual harassment and discrimination very seriously. As such, beginning with applications submitted for due dates on or after January 25, 2019, institutional training grant applications (T15, T32, T34, T35, T36, T37, T90/R90, TL1, TL4) must include a letter that describes the institutional commitment to ensuring that proper policies, procedures, and oversight are in place to prevent discriminatory harassment and other discriminatory practices.
Several months ago, we learned in the press that an NIH-supported investigator was banned from his university campus pending an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. The institution, which was the recipient of the awards in which this investigator was designated as principal investigator (PI), had not informed us of this situation. Once aware, we contacted senior institutional officials to discuss the need to ensure the effective stewardship of the award under these circumstances. We requested that the institution provide us with alternative plans for conducting the research given that this individual would no longer serve as PI and would have no other involvement in the NIH-funded research, and we reminded them (as we recently reminded the community and as reiterated below) that they are responsible for notifying NIH of any change in status that might affect the ability of an individual identified as key personnel to conduct NIH-supported research.
We have seen rising numbers of allegations related to harassment, discrimination, and hostile work environments since 2018 (when we first started tracking them). In many cases, we successfully work with recipient institutions to put appropriate measures in place to address unsafe working environments. However, too often we hear from institutions that a PI has violated the institution’s policies and is no longer permitted to supervise students or staff, but there will be “no impact on NIH-funded work.” We have a problem with this response.