NSF Announces New Measures to Protect Research Community from Harassment

New policy requires awardee institutions to report sexual harassment findings.

From the NSF News Release:

September 19, 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken the next steps in its agency-wide effort to ensure the research and learning environments it supports are free from harassment, publishing a term and condition that requires awardee organizations to report findings and determinations of sexual harassment, as well as establishing a secure online portal for submitting harassment notifications.

On Sept. 21, 2018, NSF will publish a term and condition for awards, to become effective 30 days after publication, that will require awardee organizations to notify the agency of:

  • Any findings or determinations that an NSF-funded principal investigator or co-principal investigator committed harassment, including sexual harassment or sexual assault.
  • The placement of the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on administrative leave, or of the imposition of any administrative action relating to a harassment or sexual assault finding or investigation.

NSF will consult with the awardee organization, and determine what action is necessary under NSF’s authority. NSF actions may include substituting or removing principal investigators or co-principal investigators, reducing award funding, and — where neither of those options is available or adequate — suspending or terminating awards.

It is NSF policy that all personnel supported by NSF awards must comport themselves in a responsible and accountable manner during the award performance period at awardee institutions, field sites, facilities, conferences, workshops, online and everywhere NSF-funded science and education is conducted.

For details on the new requirements, see the NSF fact sheet.

In February 2018, NSF announced a proposed term and condition, providing public notice by posting it for comment in the Federal Register. NSF received nearly 200 comments during the 60-day comment period.

NSF has worked with university, association and industry partners to finalize the term and condition. The comments and NSF’s responses will be available for public viewing when the notice is posted Sept. 21, 2018.

The recent National Academies report, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, commissioned in 2016 by the NSF’s Office of Integrative Activities, highlights the timeliness of NSF’s new actions. As the primary funder of U.S. basic science and engineering research, NSF is committed to creating a more inclusive STEM culture and climate.

To improve accountability, NSF encourages anyone with a harassment complaint involving an NSF-funded researcher to report the incident to their institution and visit NSF’s sexual harassment webpage. From that site, individuals can submit harassment complaints directly to the NSF Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The webpage also includes “promising practices” on policies, effective codes of conduct and standards of behavior that may be applied everywhere NSF-supported research is conducted, as well as frequently asked questions.

Statement from NSF Director France Córdova:

Throughout its history, NSF has served as a leader, supporting and shaping the U.S. research community. This action furthers that proud tradition, and recognizes that, at times, the scientific community has not sufficiently protected all of its members. For the good of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise, this neglect must end. This new policy is intended to provide targeted, serious consequences for harassers. It gives people tools to make harassment stop without disturbing others’ careers and lives.

NSF is committed to ensuring the safety and security of the people our awards support. When that safety is endangered through the actions of someone associated with an NSF award, the foundation will work to replace that person while preserving support for responsible members of the community. We will continue to work with awardee institutions to carefully consider each case.

NSF’s actions on this complex and challenging issue will not stop here. There are sure to be unforeseen challenges, even with all the discussion with and support from our partners. In the coming months, we will continue to listen to the research community and monitor our progress.

For more information, visit NSF.gov/harassment.