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Francisco Ayala Ousted

The US National Academy of Sciences has expelled evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala from its membership, Science reports.

Ayala resigned from his position at the University of California, Irvine, in 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment. An attorney for four women involved said Ayala made sexual and inappropriate comments toward women and that his behavior included unwanted touching, as Science reported at the time. Ayala's name was also removed from an endowed chair and the biological sciences school.

Until recently, the National Academy of Sciences had no means of removing any of its members. It voted in 2019 to allow the expulsion of members who violate its code of conduct. That vote came on the heels of allegations of sexual harassment against Inder Verma, then at the Salk Institute and editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Verma resigned from the Salk Institute and as editor-in-chief of PNAS. Astronomer Geoff Marcy was the first NAS member to be expelled under this new mechanism after accusations of sexually harassing students.

"Finally," Jessica Pratt, an associate professor at UC Irvine who filed a complaint against Ayala, tells Science. "I feel relief that for victims of sexual harassment or violence, their path to justice might be easier now because of changes in policy."

Science notes, though, that critics say the process is too slow and too reliant on outcomes of institutional investigations.