New affirmative certifications by Principal Investigators may be on the horizon as part of the National Institutes of Health’s initiative to prevent sexual harassment.
An Advisory Report just issued, Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment, recommends that NIH “require that each PI and key personnel on an NIH grant attest that they have not been found to have violated their institution’s code of professional conduct, including having a finding of sexual harassment, for a determined period of time.”
Additionally, recent proposed legislation entitled the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act – H.R. 36 / S. 1067 calls for the Whitehouse Office of Science Technology Policy to issue uniform policy guidelines on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment at research grant institutions.
OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier’s recent speaking engagements confirm that sexual harassment is one of the three top Federal research grant compliance concerns heading into 2010.
NIH is poised to use grant requirements as an approach to mitigate potential violations of Title VII of Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Act of 1972.
In sum, perhaps the strongest statement portending the potential increased consequences for PI’s accused of sexual harassment can been understood through the visual below from the Advisory Report which places sexual harassment at rank with other research misconduct that can lead to debarment and exclusion from the receipt of Federal funding. Section VI of the recent Advisory Report goes into greater detail about the recommendation that “sexual harassment be treated in a manner similar to that which research misconduct is addressed …”
In 2018, both the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health came under fire for proposed new reporting of harassment by grant recipients. It remains to be seen how the mechanics of these proposals will impact higher education operations. A recommendation that NIH create “mechanisms for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating” this kind of professional misconduct “parallel” to research misconduct provisions under 42 C.F.R. part 93 would be a very significant consequence from this report.
Figure 1: Caption from NIH Advisory Committee Report to the NIH Director “Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment” December 2019