Washington Update

FASEB Submits Feedback on NIH Sexual Harassment Interim Recommendations

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, October 24, 2019

In June, the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reviewed and discussed interim recommendations from the Working Group on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment. Established in December 2018, the group is charged with assessing the current landscape of policies and procedures to address and eliminate harassment in a range of research environments, including the classroom, laboratory, field, and scientific conferences.

With the working group’s final recommendations expected at the next ACD meeting in December, FASEB – through its Training and Career Opportunities subcommittee – engaged in a detailed review of the interim report, and resulting comments were submitted to ACD members on October 3.

While FASEB provided specific feedback on all four interim recommendations, an overarching theme of the comments was the need for additional details or guidance to ensure uniform application across NIH-funded institutions. For example, while FASEB agreed with the concept of requiring principal investigators to attest to understanding and following institutional codes of conduct, these documents likely vary among institutions. Similarly, while agreeing with the need to establish mechanisms for recapturing talent lost as a result of hostile environments, FASEB noted the challenges associated with determining eligibility, maintaining privacy, and distributing financial support to affected individuals.

Other recommendations included implementing mandatory training on sexual harassment for all members of a research group supported by NIH funds, not just those listed as key personnel on a grant, and offering ancillary training opportunities in lab and personnel management for graduate student and postdoctoral trainees to supplement informal and often varied guidance currently in place.