Congress Strengthens NIH Authority Over Harassment at Funded Institutions
Empowered on May 10 by Congress, NIH implemented a general provision in the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 117-103) that mandates the NIH director to require NIH-funded institutions report to NIH “when individuals identified as principal investigator or as key personnel in an NIH notice of award are removed from their position or are otherwise disciplined due to concerns about harassment, bullying, retaliation or hostile working conditions.”
This provision not only enables mandatory reporting to NIH of removals and disciplinary actions, but also it ensures that NIH is made aware when the reason for the action is concerns of harassment.
Effective July 8, 2022, NIH is requiring notification by the authorized organization representative at NIH-funded institutions within 30 days of the removal or disciplinary action that must be submitted via a special web form.
“While NIH has made progress toward our goal of ending harassment in biomedical research, NIH lacked clear authority to require funded institutions to report to NIH whether personnel changes to an NIH grant are related to harassment, only that they should report it,” said NIH acting director Dr. Lawrence Tabak, in a statement posted on May 10. “This limited NIH’s awareness of when harassment was affecting NIH-supported activities, and therefore NIH’s ability to take necessary action to ensure appropriate grant stewardship. That changes today.”
Details of the new requirement are posted on https://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/harassment.htm, a NIH Grants and Funding web page about supporting a safe and respectful workplace at institutions that receive NIH funding and the NIH Anti-Sexual Harassment website at https://www.nih.gov/anti-sexual-harassment.
Once a funded institution reports harassment, NIH will continue to work with the grantee organization, as well as other federal agencies as required, to determine what actions are appropriate.
NIH actions may include approving the institution’s substitution or removal of personnel from an NIH grant, restricting award funding, and where neither of these options is available or adequate, suspending or terminating the grant award. Importantly, individuals can continue to report allegations directly to NIH.
“No one should ever have to endure harassment to contribute to biomedical research,” Tabak concluded. “Wherever NIH research activities take place, our priority will always be to do what we can to eliminate harassment. The passage of this bill into law is an important milestone in support of that vital commitment. I want to thank all those affected by harassment who shared their stories with NIH, provided input on our efforts to strengthen our policies and practices and held NIH accountable for addressing harassment.”