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Misconduct

Not all US science agencies are prepared for sexual harassment claims

Only NIH, NSF publicize their complaint procedures

by Andrea Widener
March 25, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 12

Several federal science agencies are not making it clear how to report sexual harassment or discrimination claims against grant recipients, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress. Federal law prohibits sexual harassment or discrimination at universities who receive federal grants. Science agencies are responsible for enforcing those rules. GAO looked at reporting to five agencies: the Department of Energy (DOE), NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the National Institutes of Health. It found that the NSF was the only agency that received a large number of Title IX sexual harassment complaints, at 33 in 2015–19. And only NSF and HHS received broader sexual discrimination complaints, at 47 and 93 respectively. But that could be because they are the only two agencies that publicly communicate a way for the public to report their concerns. The DOE and USDA have not finalized their complaint procedures so they may not be consistently handling sexual harassment and discrimination complaints.

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