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NIH Sexual Harassment Report: Restorative Justice Essential; Agency Ponders Changes

Faced with a host of recommendations from his highest-ranking advisory committee,[1] NIH Director Francis Collins said the agency would be announcing new, standard operating procedures (SOPs) for how it will respond when an institution or individual informs NIH of situations involving sexual and other forms of harassment.[2]

After the Dec. 12 meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), Collins outlined some actions that NIH might take to thwart sexual harassment in science within a year. But he said others—such as mandating institutions provide sexual harassment training—will have to wait, as they may necessitate statutory changes.

But institutions could immediately put in place strategies directed at them that are contained in a report by the Working Group on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment, which presented final recommendations to the ACD along with a 66-page report.

“Changing the culture to end sexual harassment requires efforts at every level of the research enterprise. Therefore, the Working Group developed recommendations for NIH, NIH-funded institutions, and scientific and professional societies,” members explained.

Among the recommendations for NIH-funded institutions are that they adopt programs for “restorative justice” that could include paying for attorneys and therapists for individuals affected by sexual harassment.

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