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Universities must tell NIH about sexual harassment allegations

by Andrea Widener
June 20, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 24

The National Institutes of Health will now require universities to notify the agency if a principal investigator (PI) on one of their grants is removed because of sexual harassment or other offense, according to rules issued by the agency June 11. In the past, universities could change the PI on a grant without directly notifying the NIH. The new rules require prior approval from the agency if a PI withdraws from a project, is absent for more than 3 months, or reduces the time devoted to the grant by 25% or more. Institutions will also need to notify the NIH of any change in the number of PIs on an award. In a related editorial, NIH leaders say these notifications are the best way for the NIH to learn about cases of sexual harassment or other misconduct by PIs (Science, 2020, DOI:10.1126/science.abd2644). Notification will also prevent cases of “passing the harasser,” in which scientists change institutions to avoid the consequences of harassment. Previous reports have shown that many people don’t report harassment because they think there would be no consequences for the perpetrator, according to the editorial. “It is our hope that this new guidance sends a clear message to dispel those perceptions,” it concludes.


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