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HHMI Professors Urge Professional Societies to Exclude Harassers

A letter in Science garners dozens of signatures.

Sep 6, 2018
Shawna Williams

ABOVE: HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus
WIKIMEDIA, MATT STALEY

In a letter that appears in Science today (September 6), 44 researchers supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute say the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and other professional societies should change their policies to require that members adhere to codes of conduct that prohibit sexual harassment and other discrimination. 

“[W]e are acutely aware of the harm that can be done by sexual harassment and other discriminatory behaviors, which negatively affect the careers of young scientists and hamper our efforts to diversify the scientific workforce and professoriate,” they write.

The authors note that the Society of HHMI Professors has already updated its policies to require that new and continuing members “be in good standing at their university or other employer in terms of relevant codes of conduct.” 

Earlier this year, Columbia University neuroscientist Thomas Jessell was terminated by HHMI after his university found he had “serious violations of University policies and values governing the behavior of faculty members in an academic environment.”

See “AAAS Insiders Petition to Revoke Honors of Sexual Harassers

The letter is the most recent of several campaigns that have sought to strip researchers guilty of sexual harassment and assault of scientific honors. Change.org petitions asking AAAS and the NAS to remove those guilty of such behavior from their membership roles have together gained thousands of signatures, and an abridged version of a letter by AAAS Leshner fellows calling for a policy change in that society appears in the same issue. 

AAAS has stated that it is in the process of drafting a revocation policy for fellows guilty of harassment, and NAS’s head has said its governing council will discuss making such a change.

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