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US science academy approves plan to oust sexual harassers

Members of the National Academy of Sciences voted to rescind membership in the organization for proven cases of sexual harassment.

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The National Academy of Sciences headquarters, Washington, DC

The US National Academy of Sciences has amended its Code of Conduct to include the power to expel members for proven cases of sexual harassment.Credit: B Christopher / Alamy Stock Photo

The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has approved an amendment to its by-laws that allows its governing council to expel members for misconduct, including proven cases of sexual harassment.

Eighty-four per cent of NAS members who voted on the amendment were in favour of it, and 16% opposed it. The academy, which released the results on 3 June, declined to say how many of its 2,242 members who are eligible to vote had taken part.

The amendment empowers the NAS’s governing council to “rescind membership for the most egregious violations to a new Code of Conduct, including for proven cases of sexual harassment”, according to the academy’s statement. Removing a member would require a two-thirds vote of the council.

The by-law change gives the governing council the power to develop a procedure for evaluating allegations that a member has violated the code of conduct, and to determine whether and how an accused member can appeal against the council’s decision. It also allows the council to change this process in the future. The council is developing these procedures.

The NAS governing council approved the amendment in April. That cleared the way for a final vote by the academy’s members, which concluded on 31 May. Passage of the amendment required a simple majority.

The amendment applies only to the NAS; the National Academy of Medicine and National Academy of Engineering have each developed their own codes of conduct. In an April statement, NAS spokesperson Molly Galvin said that the three academies intend to work together to harmonize their final policies.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01758-7
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