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NIH takes action against sexual harassment

May / June 2021 | Volume 20 Number 3

NIH has removed 75 principal investigators due to instances of sexual harassment or other forms of misconduct, according to a recent update to the Advisory Committee to the Director. Since 2018, the agency has received sexual harassment allegations regarding 215 individuals - in addition to reports of other types of harassment, bullying or racial discrimination - according to Dr. Michael Lauer, director of the Office of Extramural Research. Other grant actions were taken in 27 cases, such as imposing requirements for mandatory external climate reviews. More than 300 cases of all types of misconduct have been processed so far.

NIH also has a fairly low threshold for removing scientists from the peer review process and has so far barred 125 from participating, Lauer said. “If there are credible NIH takes action against sexual harassment concerns, we will remove a person from peer review. If it turns out that everything is fine, then we can restore the ability to invite them for peer review. But we want to maintain the integrity of peer review above all.”

The bulk of the allegations have come through NIH’s website form, established in 2019. More recently, NIH added a hotline to receive information by phone.

NIH has also developed and posted the process for handling allegations of sexual harassment that occur on NIH-funded projects at recipient institutions, as well as taking steps to address harassment at scientific conferences. Lauer said NIH is continuing to spread the message that “we do not tolerate sexual harassment in NIH-funded research.”

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