ACD Working Group on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment


As stewards of the biomedical research workforce, NIH is deeply concerned about accounts of sexual harassment in scientific research settings.1,2 Sexual harassment is inexcusable, as are workplace cultures that promote harassment through gender discrimination. Pervasive harassment creates obstacles for women — who are particularly more likely to be subject to sexual harassment — at all stages of their scientific career.

A recent National Academies report1, which NIH funded along with other government science agencies, describes three forms of harassment: 1) Unwanted sexual attention (verbal or physical sexual advances), 2) Sexual coercion (when favorable treatment is conditioned on sexual activity), and 3) Gender harassment (sexist hostility, crude behavior). The report concludes there is no evidence that current policies, procedures, and approaches, have significantly reduced sexual harassment in academic sciences, engineering, and medicine. As stated in the report,

…the cumulative effect of sexual harassment is a significant and costly loss of talent in academic science, engineering, and medicine, which has consequences for advancing the nation's economic and social well-being and its overall public health.

We must do better.

We have recently developed resources3,4 that comprehensively outline our policies, practices, and initiatives to address sexual harassment at NIH, at the institutions we support, and anywhere where NIH research activities take place. We have also made publicly available the policies developed by the NIH Anti-Sexual Harassment Steering Committee, and new initiatives for NIH staff, which include a new centralized process for managing reports of harassment, and administration of a survey this winter to all NIH staff, including contractors, to assess NIH workplace climate and harassment. As an additional step, the NIH Director has concluded that a high level working group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director is essential to review the plans and recommend further action5.


This working group is charged to:

  • Assess the current state of sexual harassment allegation investigation, reporting, remediation, and disciplinary procedures at NIH-funded organizations.
  • Advise on oversight, accountability, and reporting measures for awardee institutions, that will encourage a reduction in, and prevention of, sexual harassment in biomedical research laboratories.
  • Propose actions and policies that would promote a safe and inclusive culture at NIH-supported research conferences.
  • Suggest systemwide changes to culture and climate to prevent harassment and gender discrimination through diffusion of hierarchical environments by mentoring networks and committee-based advisement, and strong and diverse leadership.
  • Develop strategies for encouraging research on anti-harassment policies, procedures, and training; and measures and evaluations of their effectiveness.


* Document is in the process of being made compliant with Section 508 accessibility requirements.

Related Resources

  2. Jagsi R, et al. Gender Differences in the Salaries of Physician Researchers. JAMA. 2012;307(22):2410–2417. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6183


  • Elizabeth Adamowicz
    Graduate Student
    University of Minnesota
  • Dawn Bonnell, Ph.D.
    Vice Provost for Research
    University of Pennsylvania
  • Patti Brennan, R.N., Ph.D.
    Director, National Library of Medicine
    National Institutes of Health
  • Janine Austin Clayton, M.D.
    Associate Director for Research on Women's Health
    National Institutes of Health
  • Regina Cordy, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Wake Forest University
  • Alysha Dicke, Ph.D.
    Technology Specialist, Patent Agent
    Fish & Richardson
  • Sonia Flores, Ph.D.
    Professor and Vice Chair of Diversity and Justice
    University of Colorado, Denver
  • Carol Greider, Ph.D.
    Director, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
    Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • Richard Hodes, M.D.
    Director, National Institute on Aging
    National Institutes of Health
  • Diane O'Dowd, Ph.D.
    Vice Provost of Academic Personnel
    University of California, Irvine
  • Elizabeth Ofili, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.C.
    Professor of Medicine
    Chief Medical Officer
    Morehouse Choice Accountable Care Organization
    Morehouse School of Medicine
  • James Priest, M.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Stanford University
  • Angela Rasmussen, Ph.D.
    Associate Research Scientist
    Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
  • Scout, M.A., Ph.D.
    Deputy Director
    National LGBT Cancer Network
  • Julie Segre, Ph.D.
    Senior Investigator, National Human Genomics Research Institute
    National Institutes of Health
  • Kelly Ten Hagen, Ph.D.
    Senior Investigator, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
    National Institutes of Health
  • Megan Tobias Neely, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Fellow
    Stanford University
  • Hannah Valantine, M.D., M.R.C.P.
    Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity
    National Institutes of Health


  • Francis Cuss, M.B., B.Chir., F.R.C.P.
    Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer
    Bristol-Myers Squibb (retired)
  • Kristina Johnson, Ph.D.
    State University of New York
  • Carrie Wolinetz, Ph.D.
    Acting Chief of Staff and Associate Director for Science Policy
    National Institutes of Health


  • Jennifer Plank-Bazinet, Ph.D.
    Lead Scientific Policy Analyst, Office of Science Policy
    National Institutes of Health

This page last reviewed on January 30, 2019