Washington Update

FASEB Provides Feedback to NSF on Ensuring Safe and Inclusive Research Environments

By: Nabila Riaz
Wednesday, December 20, 2023
In October, the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued an Information Collection Request seeking comments about the agency’s intent to conduct surveys and interviews of principal investigators (PI) who have submitted proposals to solicitations that participate in the Safe and Inclusive Fieldwork (SAIF) pilot program, which launched in January 2023. NSF recently hosted a virtual hour providing additional information regarding Safe and Inclusive Work Environments Plans.

Under this new program, PIs of projects with a fieldwork component are required to submit a two-page supplementary document outlining strategies to ensure a safe and inclusive working environment for associated personnel. SAIF plans will be integrated into the merit review process under the "Broader Impacts" criterion, ensuring that PIs thoroughly consider ways to enhance participation and inclusion. To assess the effectiveness of SAIF plans, NSF is proposing data collection through surveys and interviews with PIs.

On December 7, FASEB submitted comments in support of this new data collection initiative. FASEB noted that it aligns with two previous NSF-wide anti-harassment policy revisions aimed at promoting safety and productivity in research and educational settings. While expressing overall support for the pilot plan, FASEB suggested additional factors for a comprehensive evaluation of the SAIF pilot program. Specifically, FASEB recommended conducting surveys and interviews anonymously and involving all trainees on the grant, including students and postdocs, alongside PIs to gather feedback. FASEB emphasized that this approach would facilitate cultural change beyond mere compliance.

FASEB looks forward to the implementation of these recommendations and future evaluations on whether these changes resulted in the desired sharing of promising practices and strategies to ensure all research environments are safe and free of hostile behavior.