Tracking progress

Tracking the NIH’s progress towards implementing policies to change culture and end sexual harassment

In December 2019, the Advisory Council to the Director’s Working Group on Changing Culture to End Sexual Harassment issued its report and recommendations to the National Institutes of Health’s ACD. The recommendations followed a year of deliberations, stakeholder meetings and preliminary research and serve as a robust thoughtful list on steps the NIH and stakeholders can take to change the culture throughout the scientific enterprise.

We hope that this tracking page is helpful to publicize the important work happening at the NIH, and serves as a reminder of the work still to be done. If you have an update you are aware of or a question, please contact us at

Theme 1: Increase transparency and accountability in reporting of professional misconduct, especially sexual harassment.

Recommendation Progress Comments
1.1: NIH should create a parallel process to treat professional misconduct, including sexual harassment, as seriously as research misconduct. Minimal progress The NIH has published Standard Operating Practices on harassment.
1.1a: NIH should immediately establish a process to report findings of professional misconduct, including sexual harassment, by any key personnel on an active NIH grant within two weeks of the issuance of the findings. No progress  
1.1b: NIH should amend its current process of reporting a change in PI status on an active NIH grant in cases where professional misconduct, including sexual harassment, is any part of the reason for the change. Some progress NIH asks more questions of universities when a PI has been placed on administrative leave to guide their process for determining who is involved with identifying the interim PI. If a PI is on leave due to an inquiry about harassment or bullying, it is inappropriate for that individual to be part of the selection of the alternative PI.
1.1c: NIH should require that grantee institutions consult with NIH to determine disposition of grant oversight when there is a change in PI and/or key personnel status that involves professional misconduct, including sexual harassment. No progress  
1.1d: NIH should require that NIH-funded institutions develop or maintain a professional code of conduct as a condition of award for a grant or contract. No progress  
1.2: NIH should establish a hotline and a web-based form for reporting sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by any PI or key personnel funded by NIH. No progress  
1.3: NIH should establish clear and transparent Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to respond to reports or findings of professional misconduct, including sexual harassment, or change in PI status in extramurally-funded laboratories. Some progress As outlined under recommendation 1.1, the NIH has published Standard Operating Practices on harassment.
1.4: NIH should establish mechanisms of accountability for findings of professional misconduct. Minimal progress The NIH has said there will be upcoming guide notices to ensure accountability, but nothing has been published yet.
1.5: NIH should exclude researchers with a confirmed finding of sexual harassment, or other professional misconduct, from participating in NIH study sections or NIH advisory councils/committees for a determined period of time. Some progress In 2019, 64 individuals were removed from participating in NIH study sections or NIH advisory councils/committees.
As of June 2020, 24 individuals have been removed from participating NIH study sections or NIH advisory councils/committees.
1.6: NIH should require that each PI and key personnel on an NIH grant attest that they have been found to have violated their institution's code of professional conduct, including having a finding of sexual harassment, for a determined period of time. No progress  
1.7: All meetings and conferences that receive NIH funding, directly or indirectly, must advertise NIH communications channels. No progress  
1.8: NIH should research on procedures and policies that model and promote a positive climate that cultivates respect, civility, and safety. No progress  

Theme 2: Establish mechanisms for restorative justice.

Recommendation Progress Comments
2.1: NIH should create new incentives and funding opportunities to restore the careers of targets and other affected individuals. Minimal progress The NIH is in the process of revising its re-entry supplement funding opportunity annoucements (FOAs) to specifically indicate that re-entry following a hiatus due to an unsafe or discriminatory environment is allowed.

The publication is expected in late 2020 or early 2021.
2.2: NIH should develop mechanisms for bridge funding for targets and affected individuals who lose their salary report due to sexual harassment. No progress  
2.3: We recommend an immediate NIH mechanism be developed/modified to reintegrate targets and other affected individuals into the research workforce. No progress  
2.4: NIH should partner with institutions to develop institutional safe-harbors for targets of professional misconduct. No progress  
2.5: NIH should fund additional research on policies, procedures, trainings, and interventions for restorative justice practices specifically tailored to the biomedical research environment. No progress  

Theme 3: Ensure safe, diverse and inclusive research and training environments.

Recommendation Progress Comments
3.1: NIH should create new mechanisms whereby research awards are given directly to trainees. Minimal progress The Katz Award will be releasted this fall. This award will be an R01-investigator initiated award open only to early stage investigators that provides five years of funding to support the development of new line of research.
3.2: All NIH grants should have specific expectations and requirements for maintaining a safe training and research environment including, but not limited to, at the research institution, conferences, other research settings (e.g. field work) and clinical settings. No progress  
3.3: NIH should require its grantee institutions to conduct anti-sexual harassment training, in a manner parallel to Responsible Conduct of Research. Minimal progress The NIH outlined three anticipated actions in this area but has not made progress on any action yet.
3.4: NIH should fund research on the development of effective interventions tailored to different types of organizations and climates that improve the health and safety of biomedical researchers. Some progress The NIH has released two Notices of Special Interest on effective interventions. The first aims to enhance laboratory safety curriculum and a culture of safety in biomedical research training environments (NOT-GM-20-016) and the second supplement is for research on bioethical issues (NOT-OD-20-038).

Lastly, the NIH released another funding opportunity on the research on the health of transgender and gender nonconforming populations. 

Theme 4: Create systemwide change to ensure safe, diverse and inclusive research environments.

Recommendation Progress Comments
4.1: NIH should address funding strategies that contribute to male-dominated power structures, including addressing grant mechanisms that are awarded predominantly to men. Some progress The NIH Center for Scientific Review is completing a report on anonymization study where names were redacted from applications to test for potential bias in review.

The NIH also released two Notices of Special Interest to promote research continuinty and retention of NIH mentored career development award recipients and scholars (NOT-OD-20-064) and for the continuity of biomedical and behavioral research among first-time recipients of NIH research project grant awards (NOT-OD-20-055).
4.1a: NIH should ensure that review actions and funding decisions are free of bias related to gender and work to address disparities. No progress  
4.1b: We recommend that NIH develop incentives and rewards for overcoming male-dominated power structures. No progress  
4.2: NIH should develop mechanisms to incentivize institutions that excel at promoting diversity and inclusion. No progress  
4.2a: NIH should incentivize third party recognition of institutional support for diversity and inclusion. No progress  
4.2b: NIH should provide format awards and recognition for institutions that excel in this area. No progress  
4.3: NIH should hold institutions accountable to exceed the standards set by their peers and continuously strive to set a higher bar to create safe, diverse and inclusive scientific workplace. No progress  
4.4: We recommend that NIH facilitate and collect data from a wide-scale climate survey that allows every individual on an NIH award to confidentially disclose whether they are experiencing an adverse work environment. No progress  
4.5: NIH, working with research institutions, should foster examination of the system of research training, recognizing that the current apprenticeship system facilitates risk factors for sexual harassment. No progress  
4.6: NIH should conduct a landscape analysis of the prevalence and antecedents of sexual and gender harassment in order to develop interventions that address goal-specified gaps. No progress