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Home > Global Health Matters Sep/Oct 2018 > NIH trying to change science culture, boost women’s role Print

NIH trying to change science culture, boost women’s role

September / October 2018 | Volume 17, Number 5

Two female researchers in surgical masks in lab work with microscope
Photo by David Rochkind for Fogarty/NIH

NIH recently announced its commitment to increase
transparency on sexual harassment to help enhance women’s
contributions to scientific advancements.

The NIH is strengthening its efforts to end sexual harassment both at the agency and within the research institutions it funds. “Our goal is to create a paradigm shift in the scientific culture wherever NIH research activities take place to eliminate sexual harassment and enhance women’s contributions to scientific advancements,” NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins said in a statement.

Sexual harassment is about power, he said. “It’s morally indefensible, it’s unacceptable and it presents a major obstacle that is keeping women from achieving their rightful place in science.”

In addition to implementing changes inside NIH, the agency is also bolstering grant oversight procedures to address sexual harassment at NIH-funded institutions. A new NIH Anti-Sexual Harassment website has been developed with information regarding NIH policies, terms and conditions that require NIH grantee institutions provide a harassment free-environment, relevant laws and regulations, and contacts for reporting any incidents.

A recent National Academies report, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, found no evidence that current policies and procedures have significantly reduced sexual harassment in academic sciences, engineering and medicine, Collins noted. “It is clear we must do more to change the fundamental culture of our organizations.”

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