Washington Update

FASEB Signs on to Key Initiatives to Combat Harassment in Science

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, February 28, 2019

In recent weeks, FASEB has collaborated with other scientific and educational organizations on efforts to actively address and prevent harassment in research and training environments.

On February 15, FASEB was announced as one of 53 inaugural members of the newly formed Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine.  Members include professional societies across the range of life and physical sciences. They are committed to being standard-bearers in their respective disciplines, establishing community norms and resources to combat the pervasive problem of gender and sexual harassment in research and educational environments.

Consortium members will share best practices to address harassment across a range of activities, including annual meetings and conferences, processes for rescinding awards and elected membership, policies and procedures for volunteer service, and individual organizational operations.

On February 5, FASEB became the first biological research organization to endorse the “Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019” (H.R. 36), co-sponsored by Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson and Frank Lucas, Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. This bipartisan legislation builds upon the 2018 policy implemented by the National Science Foundation (NSF) requiring awardee organizations to report findings and determinations of harassment or assault involving an NSF-funded principal or co-principal investigator.

FASEB was particularly pleased that the legislation would authorize funding for research grants to better understand factors that contribute to sexual harassment and for the collection of additional data on the prevalence and implications of gender and sexual harassment in the scientific community. Both were recommendations from the seminal 2018 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on this topic.

Finally, FASEB co-signed a letter from 75 scientific societies regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) proposed amendments to Title IX implementing regulations. The signatories expressed apprehension about possible unintended consequences associated with the proposed changes, specifically the narrowing of the harassment definition, the circumstances under which Title IX would require a response, and notice requirements.

The group recommended that the provisions not be implemented as presented, and that ED continue to revise them to reflect existing evidence. ED is currently reviewing the 105,000-plus comments that were received in response to this proposed rule change.