The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, today responded to ongoing criticism of how the agency handles sexual harassment by NIH-funded investigators by issuing an apology. In a lengthy statement from NIH leaders, replete with language unusually contrite and passionate for a federal agency, NIH says it “has been part of the problem” and vows to take new steps, but does not list any immediate policy changes.
The agency also released data on actions it has recently taken against individuals found guilty of sexual harassment, which in 2018 included removing 14 principal investigators (PIs) from grants.
The statement begins by quoting a September 2018 missive from NIH Director Francis Collins calling sexual harassment “morally indefensible,” but goes further by expressing new concerns about reports shared by the #MeTooSTEM movement. They “portray a heartbreaking story of opportunities lost, pain suffered, and a systemic failure to protect and defend. To all those who have endured these experiences, we are sorry that it has taken so long to acknowledge and address the climate and culture that has caused such harm,” the statement says. It continues: “We are concerned that NIH has been part of the problem. We are determined to become part of the solution.”