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National Institutes of Health Removes 75 Investigators for Harassment

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has received over 300 complaints of sexual and other types of harassment over the last few years. Because of those complaints, the NIH removed 75 principal investigators (PI) from projects or programs. PIs direct research grants or programs that NIH oversees. Two-thirds of the complaints made to NIH alleged sexual harassment. Before 2018, NIH had never stripped an investigator of their position for allegations of sexual harassment.

In 2018, NIH created a web portal for individuals to file complaints about funded scientists with the NIH. In 48 of 163 resolved cases, NIH substantiated the allegations of harassment. In 54 of those 163 cases, the NIH removed the investigator from the grant. In 50 of the cases, the investigator resigned their position before they could be removed. The NIH began requiring funded institutions to report harassment findings against principal investigators, including when those investigators are placed on administrative leave in 2018 as well. The NIH’s Office of Extramural Research reviews other claims of professional misconduct, including bullying and racial harassment, which make up a bigger share of complaints.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) also recently announced that it removed two members due to sexual misconduct. Similarly, the NAS had never removed anyone for such misconduct previously. Astronomer Geoff Marcy was removed by NAS for violating its Code of Conduct. The violations came from allegations against him at the University of California, Berkeley in 2015. A university investigation found repeated violations of its sexual harassment policy over a long period. The NAS removed another scientist recently based on allegations of sexual harassment at the University of California, Irvine. Several scientists commented publicly on how incredibly difficult it is to get these organizations to take action, which dissuades many victims from coming forward.