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NIH's Collins on Harassment

US National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins writes that sexual harassment is "morally indefensible" and "unacceptable."

In a statement, he writes he was "disheartened" to read the recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. That report found that current efforts to address sexual harassment in the science have been ineffective. It suggested that funding agencies should consider sexual harassment on the same level that they do research misconduct.

Collins says NIH will be updating its sexual harassment policy, launching new systems to make it easier to report harassment, and will be surveying NIH staff about the workplace climate at NIH to then design new initiatives. He says they plan to later encourage NIH-funded institutes to also administer the survey to gather national data. He adds that he plans to work with the National Science Foundation Director France Córdova to coordinate policies.

But as ScienceInsider notes, Collins didn't announce any new policies to deal with NIH-funded investigators who commit sexual harassment. Collins tells ScienceInsider that NIH cannot due to "legal reasons" and as NIH awards grants to institutions rather than to individuals. It adds that NIH-funded institutes can transfer a grant to allow others to continue the work.

ScienceInsider says Collins' statement has gotten mixed reviews from researchers.