Washington Update

NIH ACD Working Group Is Updated on Recommendations to End Sexual Harassment

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm
Thursday, June 17, 2021

On June 10, Michael Lauer, MD, presented an update to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) on implementing recommendations from the 2019 report, Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment. Dr. Lauer gave an overview of progress thus far, including published standard operating procedures for how NIH handles allegations of sexual harassment on an NIH-funded project at a recipient institution, a web form for reporting harassment at extramural institutions, and a Notice requiring NIH to be notified if a change in Principal Investigator or other key personnel is related to concerns of harassment.

New data on harassment cases for 2021 were shared. Through April 30, 70 total cases, in which each case refers to an individual person rather than an incident, had been reported to NIH. Of those, 41 cases involved sexual harassment, 20 pertained to other harassment, five had instances of bullying, 16 highlighted racial discrimination, and five were self-disclosures. Note that some cases involve the individual experiencing multiple types of harassing behavior. For cases that only involved sexual harassment, 25 percent of sexual harassment allegations have been substantiated, and NIH has removed almost 50 percent of respondents to complaints of sexual harassment from peer review.

Progress is ongoing to combat harassment in other areas of interest as well. For example, a recent Notice emphasized safety at conferences, and NIH intends to require applicants to submit plans to foster safe, respectful, and inclusive environments in the future. Furthermore, applications for NIH’s Prize for Enhancing Faculty Gender Diversity have been received and awards are anticipated to be announced in late July. Finally, in response to the Government Accountability Office’s March 2020 report, Sexual Harassment in STEM Research, NIH has established a memorandum of understanding with the Office for Civil Rights and continues to strengthen that relationship.