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Petition Asks AAAS to Remove Fellows With Sexual Harassment Records

The request is similar to one made of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jul 12, 2018
Kerry Grens

Update (September 17): AAAS announced September 15 that it has adopted a new revocation policy for elected fellows “in cases of proven scientific misconduct, serious breaches of professional ethics, or when the Fellow in the view of AAAS no longer merits the status of Fellow.”

A petition by members of the scientific community asks the American Association for the Advancement of Science to remove fellows who have been found guilty of sexual harassment or assault.

“This is a no-brainer,” says BethAnn McLaughlin, a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University who started the petition. “This is something the world’s largest science organization should have done when title IX came out.”

Title IX is a federal law, implemented in 1972, that prohibits sexual discrimination. McLaughlin’s petition, signed by more than 200 people as of publication time, urges AAAS to revoke membership for those who have been found guilty of sexual harassment, retaliation, or assault by their institutions. It also asks that AAAS require documentation from institutions that members have not violated policies against sexual harassment or misconduct over the past 15 years.

According to an emailed statement to The Scientist from Tiffany Lohwater, the chief communications officer at AAAS, the organization is developing a policy to address sexual harassers. “We are working within our organization’s bylaws and governance structure as relates to elected AAAS Fellows, including the development of a Fellows revocation policy for consideration by the AAAS Council. The revocation policy is currently in draft form and has not been finalized.”

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

McLaughlin tells The Scientist she’s “shocked that it’s 2018 and they’re just drafting this.”

The AAAS petition follows on a similar one, launched by McLaughlin in May, that asks the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to kick out members who have been found guilty of sexual harassment. At the time, NAS told The Scientist that there was no mechanism to remove members, and that “election is for life.” Later that month, the presidents of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced they may reconsider the bylaws.

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