NIH set to strengthen its sexual-harassment policies

Agency plans to create central reporting system and launch training and education campaigns.

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The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is remaking how it handles allegations of harassment by its employees. The agency will soon introduce a centralized system for reporting harassment by NIH scientists, director Francis Collins said on 17 September.

“NIH recognizes that we need to increase our transparency on this issue,” Collins wrote in a statement to announce the launch of an anti-sexual-harassment website.

The agency is also planning to update its harassment policy and launch training and education campaigns to prevent harassment, he said. This winter, the NIH will survey its staff and contractors about the workplace climate at the agency and harassment issues. These policies will be published in the US government’s Federal Register “in a few days”, Collins said.

In his statement, the NIH chief also addressed how the agency handles cases in which a grant recipient has been accused of harassment or found guilty of such behaviour.

The move comes several months after the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced its own effort to update its harassment policies. In February, the NSF proposed measures that include requiring universities to report if an NSF-funded researcher is found guilty of sexual harassment. The NSF plans to announce updates to its harassment policies on 20 September.

In his statement, Collins said that the policies should be harmonized across government agencies that fund research. Collins added that he also plans to ask the White House’s National Science and Technology Council Committee on Science, which he co-chairs with NSF director France Córdova, to develop measures to change the culture of sexual harassment in science.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06730-5
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