NIH strengthens policies to alert agency to sexual harassment by grantees

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is tightening grant rules that until now have sometimes left the agency in the dark about sexual harassment cases involving researchers it supports. Starting on June 12, with new awards, institutions will be required to report when an investigator is removed from a grant because of harassment findings or allegations.
  • NIH also wants to know when an investigator is moving their grant to another institution because of sexual harassment findings or concerns. This should prevent cases in which institutions “pass the harasser” without the agency’s knowledge.
  • Along with other new policies, the changes will “further foster a culture whereby sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviors are not tolerated in the research and training environment.”
  • Scientists can step down from their grant for a range of reasons including medical leave, a job change, or a misconduct investigation. Institutions must report such changes in status, but until now, NIH did not ask why.
  • The changes put the NIH closer to National Science Foundation (NSF) requirements. However NSF goes further and requires institutions to report sexual misconduct findings even if there’s no change in an investigator’s grant status. NIH has said it doesn’t have the legal authority to adopt that policy.