It has been 7 months since the presidents of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) in Washington, D.C., announced they had “begun a dialogue” about the standards of professional conduct required for membership in their exclusive ranks. In plainer terms, the three presidents of the prestigious academies—whose members are elected by existing members—were telegraphing their intention to try to find a way to expel proven sexual harassers and those found guilty of other kinds of misconduct. We “take this issue very seriously,” they wrote.
Membership in the academies is a lifetime honor, and the current bylaws of all three make no provision for ejecting members. But in April, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, D.C., was rocked by allegations that cancer scientist Inder Verma, a longtime member, had a long record of sexual harassment. The NASEM presidents’ statement followed in May. But it did not satisfy those pressing for change.
“It’s staggering that they continue to refuse to make clear if there will be consequences for misconduct, including sexual harassment,” Gary McDowell, executive director of Future of Research, an Abington, Massachusetts–based nonprofit that advocates for junior researchers, tweeted on 22 May, the day the presidents’ statement was released. “This statement does not say action will be taken, only that they will ‘re-examine’ their policies.”