NSF: Next steps against harassment
September 19, 2018
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For more information, see NSF's press release.
What NSF is doing:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) will release a term and condition requiring awardee organizations to report findings of sexual harassment. It will be posted in the Federal Register Sept. 21, 2018 and go into effect Oct. 21, 2018.
Why NSF is doing this:
As the primary funding agency for fundamental science and engineering research in the United States, NSF is committed to promoting safe, productive research and education environments for current and future scientists and engineers.
NSF will not tolerate harassment, including sexual or sexual assault within the agency, at awardee organizations, field sites, or anywhere NSF-funded science and education is conducted.
NSF considers the Principal Investigator (PI) and any co-PI(s) identified on an NSF award to be in positions of trust. The PI, any co-PI(s), and all personnel supported by an NSF award must comport themselves in a responsible and accountable manner during the award period of performance whether at the awardee institution, online, or outside the organization, such as at field sites or facilities, or during conferences and workshops.
Who this affects:
The 2,000 U.S. institutions of higher education and other organizations that receive NSF funds are responsible for fully investigating complaints and for compliance with federal non-discrimination laws, regulations, and executive orders.
The reporting requirement currently applies to PIs and co-PIs. The term and condition affects PIs or co-PIs who receive awards or funding amendments on or after the Oct. 21 date of implementation. However, it covers conduct by those PIs or co-PIs that may have occurred prior to them receiving those awards.
NSF does not consider this a final step. This is a part of our continued efforts. NSF expects all award personnel to act in a respectful and professional manner at all times.
New notification requirements:
Upon implementation, the new term and condition will require awardee organizations to notify NSF of any findings/determinations of sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, or sexual assault regarding an NSF funded PI or co-PI.
The new term and condition also will require the awardee to notify NSF if the PI or co-PI is placed on administrative leave or if the awardee has imposed any administrative action on the PI or any co-PI relating to any finding/determination or an investigation of an alleged violation of awardee policies or codes of conduct, statutes, regulations, or executive orders relating to sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, or sexual assault. Finally, the award term and condition specifies the procedures that will be followed by NSF upon receipt of a notification.
Notifications must be submitted by an authorized organizational representative within 10 business days from the date of the finding/determination, or the date of the placement of a PI or co-PI by the awardee on administrative leave or the imposition of an administrative action, whichever is sooner.
The new term and condition will be effective for any new award, or funding amendment to an existing award, made on or after the effective date.
NSF will consider in its review of each notification submitted:
- Safety and security of personnel supported by the NSF award;
- Overall impact to the NSF-funded activity;
- Continued advancement of taxpayer investments in science and scientists; and
- Whether the awardee has taken appropriate action to ensure the continuity of science and that continued progress under the funded project can be made.
NSF has developed an electronic capability for submission of the required notifications that will be available on NSF's harassment page. The information will go directly to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Upon receipt and review of the information provided, NSF will consult with the authorized organizational representative, or designee. Based on the results of this review and consultation, the Foundation may, if necessary, assert its programmatic stewardship responsibilities and oversight authority to initiate the substitution or removal of the PI or any co-PI, reduce the award funding amount, or where neither of those previous options is available or adequate, to suspend or terminate the award.
For purposes of the term and condition, the following definitions apply:
Sexual harassment: May include but is not limited to gender or sex-based harassment, unwelcome sexual attention, sexual coercion, or creating a hostile environment, as set forth in organizational policies or codes of conduct, statutes, regulations, or executive orders.
Other Forms of Harassment: Non-gender or non-sex-based harassment of individuals protected under federal civil rights laws, as set forth in organizational policies or codes of conduct, statutes, regulations, or executive orders.
Finding/Determination: The final disposition of a matter involving sexual harassment or other form of harassment under organizational policies and processes, to include the exhaustion of permissible appeals exercised by the PI or co-PI, or a conviction of a sexual offense in a criminal court of law.
Administrative Leave/Administrative Action: Any temporary/interim suspension or permanent removal of the PI or co-PI, or any administrative action imposed on the PI or co-PI by the awardee under organizational policies or codes of conduct, statutes, regulations, or executive orders, relating to activities, including but not limited to the following: teaching, advising, mentoring, research, management/administrative duties, or presence on campus.
Sarah Bates, NSF, (703) 292-7738, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.