Amid rampant sexual harassment in science, academies aren’t ejecting abusers

Enlarge / High-angle photograph of a woman scientist holding an electrophoresis plate for DNA separation over the UVP imaging System. (credit: Getty | CDC)

Sexual harassment is widespread within the scientific community, and policies and institutional safeguards to address the problem are more effective at reducing liability than protecting members and changing harmful work cultures, according to a long-awaited report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The report, released Tuesday, June 12, is two years in the making. In an opening statement broadcast at the report’s public release today in Washington, DC, Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, called it a “landmark” study arriving at the “right moment” amid the international Me Too movement against sexual harassment and assault. Yet the academies own policies regarding harassers within its ranks may highlight the challenges ahead for effecting change.

The extensive report outlines the grim

of sexual harassment in the academic sciences, engineering, and medical fields, as well as numerous recommendations for prevention. Reviews of scientific analyses and surveys revealed that more than 50 percent of women faculty and staff and 20-50 percent of women students in the three fields had encountered or experienced sexual harassment. These rates are higher than in other sectors, including industry and government jobs. Academic positions were second only to the military, which had a sexual harassment rate of 69 percent.

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