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  • Washington Highlights

    House Science Committee Leaders Introduce Sexual Harassment Legislation

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) Jan. 3 introduced the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36).

    Similar to legislation Chairwoman Johnson introduced in the 115th Congress, H.R. 36 would establish an interagency working group led by the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), with representatives from each federal science agency with an extramural research expenditure over $1 billion.

    The working group, which would sunset after seven years, would be tasked with developing an inventory of sexual harassment policies at federal science agencies and using it to develop a uniform set of policy guidelines. Requirements of the guidelines would include directing grantees to report to agencies from which they receive funding any findings of sexual harassment and associated administrative actions such as placing personnel on leave. Agencies would be required to archive and share with one another those reports quarterly.

    The measure also directs the working group to consider integrating requirements within the guidelines for the grantees to conduct periodic climate assessments, make public the number of reports and results of assessments disaggregated by gender and potentially other characteristics, regularly assess policies and procedures, and include a description of the institution’s code of conduct within each grant proposal.

    In addition to the working group’s activities, the bill directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to commission a National Academies report on the influence of sexual harassment at higher education institutions on career advancement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), including an update on progress from the National Academies report issued in June 2018 [see Washington Highlights, June 15, 2018].

    The bill also authorizes NSF to award grants to higher education and non-profit organizations to study the causes and implications of sexual harassment for individuals in STEM disciplines, including students and trainees, and examine and implement potential interventions.