Tag: ethics

NSF is soliciting public comments on their new sexual harassment policy

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is soliciting public comment on the agency’s proposed implementation of the new reporting requirements specified in NSF Important Notice No. 144, dated February 8, 2018. Full text of the reporting requirements is available online or via download.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) does not tolerate sexual harassment, or any kind of harassment, within the agency, at awardee organizations, field sites, or anywhere NSF-funded science and education are conducted. The 2,000 U.S. institutions of higher education and other organizations that receive NSF funds are responsible for fully investigating complaints and for complying with federal non-discrimination law. NSF has taken steps to help ensure research environments are free from sexual harassment. Additionally, NSF is bolstering our policies, guidelines and communications so that organizations funded by NSF clearly understand expectations and requirements.

NSF is working to make certain that recipients of grants and cooperative agreements respond promptly and appropriately to instances of sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, or sexual assault. A community effort is essential to eliminate sexual and other forms of harassment in science and to build scientific workspaces where people can learn, grow and thrive.

Comment Deadline: May 4, 2018.

Comments should be addressed to Suzanne H. Plimpton, Reports Clearance Officer, Office of the General Counsel, National Science Foundation, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22314, email splimpto@nsf.gov; telephone: (703) 292-7556; FAX (703) 292-9240. We encourage respondents to submit comments electronically to ensure timely receipt. We cannot guarantee that comments mailed will be received before the comment closing date. Please include “Reporting Requirement Regarding Findings of Sexual Harassment, other Forms of Harassment, or Sexual Assault” in the subject line of the email message; please also include the full body of your comments in the text of the message and as an attachment. Include your name, title, organization, postal address, telephone number, and email address in your message.

For any questions, comments or concerns regarding sexual or other forms of harassment, please contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), National Science Foundation, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22314, email: harassmentnotifications@nsf.gov; telephone (703) 292-8020; FAX: (703) 292-9482.

Open Letter to the Geomorphology Community

This letter is to alert the community to ongoing online harassment by a registered sex offender who targets individuals in geomorphology and related fields. This has been a problem for many years. The offender, who has an Earth Science degree and self-identifies as a geomorphologist, has spent time in prison on charges of attempted sexual assault. To our knowledge, more than 80 women have received hostile, sexually explicit, or threatening emails. Some of these emails include pornographic videos. He is also known to target senior researchers, including men, describing his scientific ideas and critiquing established concepts and well-known publications in the field. He is currently not associated with any academic, government, or private-sector institutions.

Harassment and intimidating behavior of any kind, whether it be in person or online, is not acceptable. Harassment due to sex and gender are prohibited in the U.S. Due to the online and interstate nature of this harassment, legal redress has proven difficult. The emails come from different email addresses, which makes it difficult to block accounts. Advice from campus police forces have been contradictory, in some cases advising women to delete their professional websites and contact information from the internet. This is not only difficult but has the insidious effect of further marginalizing women from the field.

Because of the pervasive nature of the harassing communications, it is imperative that all members of the geomorphology and related fields are aware of the problem and acknowledge that female graduate students, postdocs, and senior scientists are being preferentially targeted. We hope that open and public recognition will alert new women in the field who may receive these harassing emails with no warning, or who may have been receiving them and felt threatened and isolated. You are not alone in this experience. We believe you, support you, and want you to remain a part of our community. Senior scientists should recognize that their own students may be (or may become) targets of these hostile emails and recognize that this harassment can affect professional performance and personal wellbeing.

The community should work together to provide support for those who are experiencing this and other forms of harassment and to seek long-term solutions so that everyone can participate and engage fully as scientists.

If you have been affected by this online harassment we suggest taking the following steps:

  • Report the incidents to your campus or local police.
  • Document the harassment by saving all emails. Consider setting up a filter so that these emails bypass your inbox and go directly to a designated folder.
  • Forward these emails to geomorph.harassment AT gmail.com. As we seek more permanent solutions, it is helpful to have documentation of the scope of this problem. This inbox has been set up to serve as a clearinghouse for these harassing emails. If you have received these emails and want more information about the situation, contact this address to be connected with someone. Leaders in the community have agreed to monitor this inbox.
  • If you are comfortable doing so, consider responding to the harassing emails with a short statement such as, “These are inappropriate emails. Do not contact me in any way in the future.” In at least one known case, this led to a several-year hiatus in contact.
  • Your campus or healthcare provider are good places for counseling and mental health and wellness support. Initiatives such as HeartMob, by the organization Hollaback!, provide additional resources for supporting targets, educating communities, and mobilizing activists and can be found online at: https://iheartmob.org/

The offender’s name and identifying information have been purposefully omitted.

Petition to NSF-directed US Antarctic Program regarding sexual harassment

Please consider signing this petition to NSF http://bit.ly/2B3tA24 .

Petition Text:

In light of recent publications of longstanding sexual and physical harassment and abuse in the field, we request that the NSF-directed US Antarctic Program clarify its policies for reporting harassment, investigations of allegations, and enforcements of codes of conduct. Recent events show that domineering behaviors, mainly by men in power positions (Principal Investigator, lead scientist, senior camp member, etc.) are more common when victims do not feel empowered to speak out. However, the remote and physically-challenging environment of Antarctic make this a special case, and a potentially more dangerous one.

Among changes sought by this letter and the signees below, we ask that:

  • NSF remove responsibility from individual university investigatory units (Title IX, Title VII, etc.) by taking responsibility through its own investigatory office.
    Many field camps are composed of investigators from several different universities, blurring the lines of who is responsible to investigate reported incidences.
    Individual universities develop policies mainly based on the experiences of young students living in dormitories on a relatively safe campus; they are ill-equipped to investigate field conditions in Antarctic. Individual universities cannot be expected to develop policies for unique situations that may only apply to a miniscule proportion of employees.
  • NSF outline clear procedures and jurisdiction for reporting and investigation of incidences of abuse in the field and on ships.
  • NSF develop a singular and enforceable code of conduct that all scientists working under all auspices of the US Antarctic Program will read, understand, and sign.
    A major focus of Title IX and Title VII guidelines is retaliation. Because retaliation can be vetted through the scientific review process over which individual universities have no authority, NSF should develop a clear set of policies that minimizes the chances for respondents to review complainants’ and witnesses’ proposals.

(login information is found on the petition site)

AGU From the Prow: Sexual Harassment and the Scientific Community

22 January 2016

By Margaret Leinen, President, American Geophysical Union, Eric Davidson, President-elect, American Geophysical Union, and Carol Finn, Past President, American Geophysical Union

UPDATE, 29 January 2016: On Thursday, 28 January, an opinion piece titled, “Steps to Building a Zero-Tolerance Culture for Sexual Harassment,” was published on Eos.org. The piece, authored by three AGU members, Erika Marín-Spiotta, Blair Schneider, and Mary Anne Holmes, outlined ways that AGU can lead the way in building an environment where sexual and other types of harassment have no place.

Sexual harassment is an issue in many disciplines, including the Earth and space sciences, and its impacts can be far-reaching. As you are no doubt aware, issues of sexual harassment in the field, in the lab, and in the classroom have been widely covered in the news lately, as have the related issues of reporting, privacy, and consequences (both for the accuser and the accused).

To be clear, for AGU, and for each one of us personally, addressing this persistent problem is an issue of critical importance. Sexual harassment is wrong, and it cannot be tolerated. If we aren’t able to provide a safe and welcoming environment in which science can thrive, then we have failed as a community.

Unfortunately, this is not a new problem, and AGU, like other science societies, has been grappling with it for some time. It’s also not an isolated problem. Sexual harassment is part of a broader set of issues facing the scientific community, which include things like gender bias and inequality, discrimination based on sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, and the safety and supportive nature of our workplaces and learning environments (bullying, etc.).

These problems are complex and not always easy to solve, but as a leader in the Earth and space science community, AGU understands that we have an important role to play. A recent activity that you may not be aware of was a Town Hall meeting we hosted at the 2015 Fall Meeting with the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) and the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN). Each of us played a role in the session, which was titled, Forward Focused Ethics – What is the Role of Scientific Societies in Responding to Harassment and Other Workplace Climate Issues?  It featured several presentations and a panel discussion.

During the presentations invited speakers and leadership representatives from AGU, ESWN and AWG explored implicit bias in science and the multiplying effect that bias has on limiting professional advancement for women. They highlighted sexual assault and harassment in field camps and other field locations. They also discussed how increasing diversity in the scientific workforce and growing use of social media have contributed to the current surge in reports. The speakers provided insights, experiences, and suggestions on the role of scientific societies, how AGU and other scientific societies can help address harassment and other critical issues and AGU’s policies, practices, and mechanisms for reporting can be improved.

During the presentations invited speakers and leadership representatives from AGU, ESWN and AWG explored implicit bias in science and the multiplying effect that bias has on limiting professional advancement for women.

If you missed the Town Hall, a video recording can be found on AGU On Demand. When you log in, the video will be listed under the Science & Society channel.

In addition to the Town Hall, AGU is undertaking several other efforts focused on bringing our community together to address the issue of sexual harassment in science.

One of the more obvious is to update AGU’s own ethics (for professional conduct, in general) and behavior (for meetings, etc.) policies to strengthen our position and set clearer expectations and accountability consequences for our members. That work is underway, and we will continue to update you on its progress.

Another important effort is to bring the broader scientific community together with the hope of creating common guiding principles to inform all our policies and actions related to harassment. While our work in this area is still developing, we can tell you that AGU is committed to convening the science societies around this issue as soon as possible, and thus far, they are overwhelmingly in support of the idea. Again, as more information on this effort is available, we will update you.

Other areas being discussed include education opportunities, the development of tools/resources/best practices to be shared with academic institutions, agencies, companies and other employers, and more direct support for members who are victims of harassment.

We recognize that the way AGU moves forward in addressing the issue of sexual harassment will require feedback from and engagement with our community. As such, we want to ask you, our members, for your input. What aren’t we doing that we should be? What are other organizations or institutions doing that we should try? What are we doing well and should we be doing more of it? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. If you would like to share something, but would prefer to do so privately, you can also send comments to ethics@agu.org. The AGU Council and Board will address these topics at its upcoming meetings, and your voices will be heard.

In the end, addressing the issue of sexual harassment in science is something that requires us to work together as a community – and AGU is committed to leading the way on behalf of the Earth and space science community we represent.