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National Academy of Sciences May Expel Members

The US National Academy of Sciences may soon eject two members accused of sexual harassment, Science reports.

The academy in 2019 amended its bylaws to enable it to expel members who violated its code of conduct. That change was prompted by allegations of sexual harassment the previous year against Inder Verma, who was then at the Salk Institute and the editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While Verma subsequently resigned from those positions, the academy noted it had no means of removing him from its membership rolls.

According to Science, the academy may soon act to expel Geoffrey Marcy, a former University of California, Berkeley, astronomer, and Francisco Ayala, who was an evolutionary biologist at UC-Irvine, following complaints made against them and others. Title IX investigations at their institutes found both Marcy and Ayala guilty of sexual harassment, leading to their departures. Science notes that the Salk conducted an investigation of Verma, but its findings were not made public, preventing NAS from acting.

"We are watching social change happening in front of our eyes," Nancy Hopkins, an NAS member and emeritus biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tells Science. "It has been a long time coming."