House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Science, Passes Bipartisan Bills

On June 12, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing to discuss combatting sexual harassment in scientific and research-oriented settings. Witnesses included Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) John Neumann, Wellesley College President Dr. Paula Johnson, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Boston University Dr. Jean Morrison, and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of California, Davis Dr. Phillip Kass.

SST Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) both expressed concern about the prevalence of sexual harassment in science and research and questioned the witnesses on best practices for prevention and reporting. Some of the topics raised in the hearing included the inconsistencies in policies of federal research agencies, the cultural forces that discourage the reporting and prevention of sexual harassment, successful prevention techniques used by other countries such as the United Kingdom’s Athena SWAN program, and the drastically higher rates of sexual harassment facing women of color. Some recommendations offered by the witnesses included increasing staff and funding for prevention and reporting at federal agencies, making prevention and reporting policies uniform across federal agencies, introducing better sexual harassment training at research settings, and increasing diversity in research settings. A statement from Chairwoman Johnson and a recording of the full hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

The following week on June 20, the SST Committee marked up the STEM Opportunities Act of 2019 (H.R. 2528), the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36), and the Expanding Findings for Federal Opioid Research and Treatment Act (H.R. 3153), among others.  The bills held bipartisan support from the SST Committee members and amendments for H.R. 2528 and H.R. 36 were agreed upon in order to incorporate stakeholder input and to clarify language. COSSA officially endorsed the sexual harassment bill earlier this year. A statement from Chairwoman Johnson and a recording of the markup are available on the SST Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 25), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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