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  • Washington Highlights

    NAS Votes for Final Approval on Expelling Harassers

    Amanda Field, Specialist, Science Policy

    National Academy of Science’s (NAS, the Academy) May 31 conducted the final vote to change the bylaws to allow its governing council to expel harassers from its membership.

    Until now, becoming an elected member of the Academy was a lifetime honor, with no way to revoke membership. With the rise of the #MeToo movement and greater scrutiny of sexual harassment in science [see Washington Highlights, Jan. 11, 2019, and Washington Highlights, March 31, 2019], the scientific community expressed its concern that the Academy had no way to expel scientists who were proven harassers. In response, the Academy began the months-long process to allow its membership to vote on changing its bylaws.

    While members who attended the NAS’s Annual Business Meeting in April had already overwhelmingly voted to approve this change in the bylaws, the NAS decided to distribute the vote to its full membership, as part of its regular process for substantive amendments. While NAS would not say how many of its 2,242 members voted, it did say that 84% of those who did vote were in favor of changing the bylaws and 16% were against.

    An article in Science gave more background and quoted NAS President Marcia McNutt, PhD, “All women who have had a tough road—even those who have made it—I’m sure like me are happy to see this day where they can finally say: ‘The climate is gonna change.’ No longer will a climate be tolerated that doesn’t allow women to have the same chance as their male colleagues to thrive.”

    A new process developed by the NAS’s Council allows any person to “bring a complaint about an NAS member for any breach of the organization’s Code of Conduct, which spans behaviors including bullying, discrimination, sexual harassment, and scientific misconduct—the last defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism. NAS would not itself investigate such claims,” according to the article.