National Academy of Sciences Votes To Change Its Bylaws
National Academy of Sciences Votes To Change Its Bylaws

National Academy of Sciences Votes To Change Its Bylaws

If the changes are passed, a member can be ousted for a proven case of sexual harassment by a two-thirds majority vote by academy members.

May 1, 2019
Chia-Yi Hou

ABOVE: The National Academy of Sciences building is located in Washington, D.C.
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Update (June 3): The National Academy of Sciences has voted to allow members to be expelled, with 82 percent of ballots supporting the change, according to Science.

The US National Academy of Sciences is voting on an amendment to its bylaws to allow the organization to eject members based on activities of misconduct including sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination, according to a statement released yesterday (April 30). National Academy of Sciences (NAS) members are inducted into the organization for life, an honor that could be rescinded for individuals violating the Code of Conduct, if the amendment passes.

See “Petition Asks National Academy of Sciences to Boot Sexual Harassers

At the NAS annual business meeting, members in attendance voted as an overwhelming majority to continue with a plan to have the organization’s 2,380 members vote on the amendment. The next step is the vote among all NAS members whether to pass the amendment and formally change the bylaws.

NAS members are supportive of the changes. “I think it sends a positive signal for accountability and says to the community that even this very prestigious coveted membership is not for everybody. It’s only reserved for people who respect others,” Akiko Iwasaki of Yale University tells Nature

“Finally we are starting to have enough women in powerful positions to make things happen. I’m glad I lived this long to see it,” Nancy Hopkins of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells Nature.

See “National Academies: Policies Must Change to Curb Sexual Harassment

“Opening up the possibility of rescinding membership, was an important and necessary step,” Charles Bennett of Thomas J. Watson Research Center writes in an email to Science, but “how and under what conditions to do it” will not be “a simple matter.”

The process by which members would be investigated and then ousted for violating the Code of Conduct has yet to be determined. “The amendment just allows the outcome (removal of a member from the NAS by a vote of 2/3rds of council), but not all of the details by which the NAS would get there,” NAS president Marcia McNutt writes in an email to Nature.

Members can vote online and by mail. Votes will be tallied by mid-June.

Correction (May 3): The original version of this article erroneously stated that NAS changed its Code of Conduct and that only council members at the business meeting voted on the amendment. It was the bylaws that were changed and all members in attendance at the business meeting voted on the amendment. The Scientist regrets the errors.