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Take Steps to Prevent Harassment


October 3, 2022

Establishment of a Director's Task Force for Implementation of Measures to Combat Sexual Assault and Harassment in the United States Antarctic Program (USAP)

As part of my ongoing commitment to create safe, harassment-free workspaces in our community, I am establishing a Director's Task Force to coordinate and integrate the initial operational and strategic elements of the agency response and action plan to combat sexual assault and harassment in the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). The immediate focus of the Task Force is the creation of the Sexual Assault/Harassment Prevention and Response (SAHPR) office and deployed victim support; operationalizing the response support services; updates to training and communications for USAP participants; physical safety/security updates to field facilities; and coordinating on-ice engagement during the 2022-23 field season. The Task Force will be chaired by the Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Karen Marrongelle, and will report plans and progress towards implementation milestones to me on a weekly basis.

The Task Force will consist of cross-agency membership from the following NSF business units at a minimum:

  • Office of the Director
  • Office of Equity and Civil Rights
  • Office of the General Counsel
  • Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
  • Office of Budget, Finance and Administration
  • Office of Information Resource Management
  • Directorate for Geosciences and the Office of Polar Programs

Dr. Nimmi Kannankutty from my office will serve as the Executive Secretary for the Task Force and the primary point of contact in the Office of the Director. She can be reached by email or internal messaging at

Sethuraman Panchanathan

September 20, 2022

NSF Director Statement on USAP SAHPR Report and Follow-on Actions

I am deeply troubled by the recent reports of harassment, bullying and assault in the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP). My highest priority for the agency is always to ensure that we create a safe, harassment-free workspace, and a positive and collegial culture in which research can thrive across the entire enterprise.

To address this, I am taking immediate action to combat sexual assault and harassment by directing the NSF Office of Equity and Civil Rights (OECR) to establish a Sexual Assault/Harassment Prevention and Response (SAHPR) Support Office in order (i) to provide all the necessary resources including on-the-ground personnel in Antarctica, to support deployed personnel on matters relating to sexual assault and harassment, and (ii) to remove any or all barriers as well as provide an independent line of reporting for victims of sexual assault/harassment matters in the USAP.

The SAHPR program office is independent and will be funded and managed directly by the Office of the Director.

NSF will also enact a multifaced plan that targets prevention, that uses up-to-date training methods, and addresses the complexity of reporting incidents where multiple employers and agencies intersect. We will work to create an environment which empowers deployers to speak up when they see or experience sexual assault or harassment and empowers management to take swift and appropriate action.

These are only the first of many actions I will take over the coming days, weeks and months to ensure all USAP deployers are safe. I am personally committed to ensuring that all USAP stations, field sites, and NSF-funded science and education programs at all locations are free from harassment and sexual assault.

Sethuraman Panchanathan

NSF Action Plan


Training can be helpful to prevent harassment and can be delivered by a variety of means. Research shows that training must be implemented well to be effective.


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently published an extensive report on improving the culture and climate in academic sciences, engineering, and medicine. Researchers found 58% of women in the academic workplace face sexual harassment. For professionals and students, the consequences of experience with sexual harassment can lead to reduced motivations, declined productivity, hindered learning, and career changes. The study outlines three forms of sexual harassment: 1) gender harassment (sexist behaviors such as remarks, hostilities, objectification, exclusions or marginalization's, 2) unwanted sexual attention (verbal or physical sexual advances), and 3) sexual coercion (preferably treatment conditional on sexual activity). Additionally, researchers found that repeated incidences of gender harassment can have as significant consequences as single incidences of sexual coercion.

In order to positively change the climate and culture, this NSF-funded study makes several recommendations. Among these recommendations are: address gender harassment in anti-sexual harassment policies, extend policies beyond the legal compliance to federal laws, foster a diverse, inclusive, and respectful environment, and improve transparency and accountability. Addressing these targets during training helps foster an inclusive and safe environment.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Earth Science Women's Network, Association for Women Geoscientists, and the American Geophysical Union are partnering to address the problem of sexual harassment in the earth, space, and environmental sciences with a four-year, $1.1 million grant from NSF's ADVANCE program. A primary goal of the project is to improve work climate conditions. This is done by developing bystander intervention workshops for department heads, chairs, faculty, and graduate students to appropriately respond to and prevent sexual harassment on campus and in the field as well as include awareness and prevention training of sexual and other types of harassment in the teaching of ethical conduct in research.

De Welde, K., Stepnick, A., 2015. Disrupting the Culture of Silence. Stylus Publishing, LLC Sterling, Virginia.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established a Select Task Force to study harassment in the workplace. The Select Task Force consisted of a select group of outside experts impaneled to examine harassment in the workplace - its causes, its effects, and what can be better done to prevent it. The experts included management and plaintiffs' attorneys, representatives of employee and employer advocacy groups, labor representatives, and academics who have studied this field for years - sociologists, psychologists, and experts in organizational behavior. This study was fashioned in an interdisciplinary approach that considered the social science on harassment in the workplace. The Final report also includes detailed recommendations and a number of helpful tools to aid in designing effective anti-harassment policies; developing training curricula; implementing complaint, reporting, and investigation procedures; creating an organizational culture in which harassment is not tolerated; ensuring employees are held accountable; and assessing and responding to workplace "risk factors" for harassment.

Feldblum, C.R., Lipnic, V.A., 2016. Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Scientific American
Confronting Sexual Harassment in Science

The New York Times
Sexual Harassment Training Doesn't Work. But Some Things Do.


NSF welcomes feedback on this portal as well as suggestions for other promising practices. Our goal is to facilitate sharing of information so that all may benefit. To submit feedback and suggestions regarding promising practices, please visit NSF's Harassment Portal Feedback Form. Submissions will be considered and adopted where appropriate.