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House Committee Requests GAO Report on Sexual Harassment by Federally Funded Researchers

January 19, 2018
 
 

Leaders of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee from both parties on Thursday asked the Government Accountability Office to report on sexual harassment by federally funded researchers -- including how many harassment cases are pending before federal agencies and how many have been investigated and resolved since 2013. The request notes that grant-awarding agencies may opt to terminate funding to an institution that fails to comply with federal laws against harassment in education. It also asks whether current systems and protections to address harassment are effective and accessible.

In addition to numbers of cases, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, a Democrat and the ranking committee member, told the office they wanted information on federal grant-making agencies’ harassment policies and procedures on harassment and compliance programs for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in education.

The lawmakers requested a focus on the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, given their high levels of research funding. The request is part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual harassment in science, which was prompted in part by a high-profile harassment case involving a longtime Boston University geologist.

“Sexual harassment has a significant negative impact on the ability of female students and early career researchers to engage in research at the same level as their male peers,” reads Smith and Johnson’s letter to the GAO. “Equitable access to education and research experiences cannot be ensured for women in the sciences until gender discrimination, implicit bias, and sexual harassment are no longer potential barriers to their success.”

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