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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)

NSF Releases Dear Colleague on Research on Sexual Harassment in STEM

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter on March 29 highlighting NSF’s continued support for competitive research that advances fundamental knowledge about the nature and underlying dynamics of sexual and other forms of harassment and the evaluation of harassment prevention in research, STEM, and workplace settings. The letter outlines that NSF has designated liaisons for harassment research in their research directorates and offices to help potential grantees determine whether a research idea is within the scope of the Dear Colleague Letter and appropriate for existing programs at NSF. The letter also includes several potential research foci in the social and behavioral sciences including understanding the underlying social and behavioral process, mechanisms for assessing and evaluating harassment prevalence and prevention, and the nature and dynamics of harassment.

More information can be found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 2), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NIH Publishes Update on Efforts to Address Sexual Harassment in Science

On February 28, the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released an update on efforts underway at NIH to address sexual harassment in science. The update outlines that, following the National Academies of Sciences’ report on sexual harassment of women in science, NIH established the Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment. The task of the working group is to assess the current state of sexual harassment, advise on accountability measures, propose policies, and develop strategies for encouraging research on anti-harassment policies and measures of their effectiveness. The Working Group met for the first time this month and will report interim recommendations in June and provide a final report and recommendations to the ACD in December. The update also lists several themes that will be at the center of the working group’s recommendations including demonstrating accountability and transparency, clarifying expectations for institutions and investigators to ensure a safe workplace and inform the agency, providing clear channels of communication to NIH, and listening to victims and survivors of sexual harassment and incorporating their perspectives into future actions. More information can be found in the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 5), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

COSSA Joins Call for Department of Education to Halt Proposed Title IX Amendments

COSSA joined over 60 other organizations in a letter urging the U.S. Department of Education to halt its proposed amendments to Title IX implementing regulations that would restrict the definition of sexual harassment in academic institutions and the overall scope of the Title IX regulation. The letter recognizes that “existing legal structures (including Title IX) alone are insufficient to create the needed changes of conduct to reduce barriers to full participation,” adding that the proposed regulations “are without an evidence-based justification and are not consistent with Title IX.” The signatory societies, including COSSA, emphasize the importance that rules concerning sexual harassment be made “with serious regard for the facts, evidence, and research.”

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 5), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Science Committee Leadership Finalized; First Bills Introduced

On January 4, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) was elected the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, after announcing her intention to seek the gavel following the 2018 midterm elections. Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) was named Ranking Member of the Committee in December. Representatives Johnson and Lucas announced on the first day of the 116th Congress that they had jointly introduced two bills, one to combat sexual harassment in science, and one to integrate energy and water research at the Department of Energy. The two bills, H.R. 36, the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 and H.R. 34, the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2019, with their bipartisan co-sponsorship, represent what many in the scientific community hope to be a new era of bipartisanship on the House Science Committee. COSSA has endorsed the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

COSSA Endorses Bill to Combat Sexual Harassment in Science

On October 2, COSSA released a statement in support of H.R. 7031, the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2018. The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, would provide funding to the National Science Foundation to establish a grant program to study the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in the scientific workforce, efficacy of interventions, and methods of remediating the negative impacts of sexual harassment. This legislation would also direct data collection about sexual harassment in science and establish and interagency working group to address this important issue. Read the full statement on COSSA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 16), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

NSF Announces New Sexual Harassment Policy

On September 21, the National Science Foundation (NSF) published a new term and condition for awards, to be enacted October 21, 2018, requiring awardee organizations to report findings of sexual harassment. The new term and condition will require awardee organizations to notify NSF of:

  • “Any findings or determinations that an NSF-funded principal investigator (PI) or co-principal investigator(co-PI) committed harassment, including sexual harassment or sexual assault.
  • The placement of the PI or co-PI on administrative leave, or of the imposition of any administrative action relating to a harassment or sexual assault finding or investigation.”

After notification, NSF will consult with the organization and determine what action is necessary under NSF’s authority, including substituting or removing PIs or co-PIs, reducing award funding, and where neither of those options is available or adequate—suspending or terminating awards. NSF has developed an online submission system for the required notifications that will be available on NSF’s sexual harassment page, which will send information directly to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  More information can be found on NSF’s website.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 2), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Academies Report Recommends Strategies to Address Sexual Harassment in Academia

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a new consensus study report, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report details the impacts of sexual harassment in terms of damage to research integrity and loss of talent and argues that institutions should view sexual harassment as “equally important as research misconduct in terms of its effect on the integrity of research.” The report makes seven broad recommendations for how academic institutions can better address and prevent sexual harassment: address gender harassment (sexist hostility and crude behavior); move beyond legal compliance to address culture and climate; create diverse, inclusive, and respectful environments; improve transparency and accountability; diffuse the hierarchical and dependent relationship between trainees and faculty; provide support for targets of harassment; and strive for strong and diverse leadership. The complete report and supplementary materials are available on the National Academies website.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 26), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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