Readout of the National Science and Technology Council Roundtable on Preventing Harassment in Isolated Scientific Research Environments
On November 1, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Federal Interagency Working Group on Inclusion in STEM (IWGIS) – a working group established by the National Science and Technology Council – convened leaders across government and academia to discuss ongoing efforts to protect people from harassment, including, taking action to expand rights and critical protections for people who work in remote research environments. This is building on the Biden-Harris Administration’s critical work to ensure safety and opportunity in STEM.
The IWGIS is a working group of the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (CoSTEM).
The Roundtable on Preventing Harassment in Isolated Scientific Research Environments, which built on a July 2022 convening, aimed to shine a spotlight to the many forms of harassment endemic to some scientific research environments, present examples of how organizations and individuals are rooting out harassment across research environments, and provide resources for organizations and individuals working to create effective and actionable policies to address harassment in these environments.
Dr. Eleanour Snow, National Program Manager for Youth and Education in Science at the Office of Science Quality and Integrity of the U.S. Geological Survey, and co-chair to IWGIS kicked off the event. Dr. Nafeesa Owens, OSTP Assistant Director for STEM Education and IWGIS co-chair, welcomed guests and introduced opening speakers. Dr. Gretchen Goldman, OSTP Assistant Director for Environmental Science, Engineering, Policy, and Justice, and Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Director of the Department of Energy Office of Science provided welcoming remarks.
Research has shown that skilled, motivated individuals are deterred from the scientific enterprise by discrimination and harassment in education, training, and within the workforce. These trends have lasting impacts on career trajectories and hinders the potential of the science and technology ecosystem to deliver results.
- Dr. Ellen Stofan, Under Secretary for Science and Research, Smithsonian Institution
- Dr. Roberta Marinelli, Director, Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation
- Dr. Tana Wood, Research Ecologist, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta, Professor of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Dr. Amelia E. Shevenell, Associate Professor of Geological Oceanography, University of South Florida
- Kristen Yarincik, Executive Director, IOOS Association
Panelists shared impactful stories about their own experiences with harassment and reflections on the ways in which isolated scientific research environments can perpetuate and reinforce abusive behavior.
They discussed strategies and recommendations for addressing harassment, including;
- Creating multiple widely-known and confidential ways to report incidents of harassment
- Re-evaluating power structures in order to diffuse hierarchical and dependent relationships
- Conduct climate assessments to monitor institutional culture change and measure targeted improvements and reductions in harassment over time
- Intentional budgeting of more resources towards harassment prevention and intervention
- Establishing and enacting clear accountabilities for transgressions, such as funding consequences
- Recognizing and ameliorating the burden of reporting harassment
- Instituting bystander trainings, and other skills building, to ensure individuals know how to recognize unjust treatment and how to step in to stop it
Participants and panelists affirmed that intentional and collaborative work is needed to create a more inclusive and safe culture in science and technology research environments.
A summary of the Roundtable and closing remarks were provided by IWGIS Co-chair, Dr. Charlene E. Le Fauve, Senior Advisor to the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity in the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health.
The bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act includes provisions for establishing evidence-based strategies to prevent harassment in research institutions.