As high-profile sexual harassment cases fuel public criticism, the presidents of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced last week they may adopt new policies allowing the prestigious bodies to eject members who have committed harassment and other forms of misconduct. Members of the academies—which serve as both honorific societies and advisers to the U.S. government—are elected by existing members to life-long terms, and the bodies currently lack mechanisms for removing them for harassment.
Because scientists and the public “place much trust” in the three Washington, D.C.–based academies, their leadership councils “have begun a dialogue about the standards of professional conduct for membership,” the presidents said in a 22 May statement. “We want to be sure that we are doing everything possible to prevent sexual harassment, to instill a culture of inclusion and respect, and to reinforce that harassment is not tolerated.” The statement was signed by Marcia McNutt, head the National Academy of Sciences (NAS); C. D. Mote Jr., head of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE); and Victor Dzau, head of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).
Some researchers welcomed the announcement. “This may seem small, but as someone who’s been working with them for 2 years, this is BIG for this organization,” tweeted Kate Clancy, an anthropologist who studies sexual harassment in science at the University of Illinois in Urbana. Clancy helped author an NAS report on sexual harassment in science that will be released on 12 June.