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  • People participate in a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017.

    People participate in a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 September 2018

This comes as the widespread #MeToo movement, which started with singling out sexual harassers in Hollywood, is spreading to academia.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society with more than 120,000 members, unanimously adopted a policy Saturday on sexual harassment and other misconduct by scientists who have been selected as AAAS fellows.

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Starting from October 2015, any fellow who has been proven to have violated professional ethics including sexual harassment and falsifying scientific results may be stripped of their honors.  

“Harassment has no place in science,” says Margaret Hamburg, president of AAAS. But, she adds, “We are not going to make decisions based simply on a newspaper article, a blog, or somebody’s anecdotal report.”

They will require proof in the form of investigative reports, or an announcement by institutions or government agencies, in order to take necessary actions.

This came after the widespread #MeToo movement which started with singling out sexual harassers in Hollywood, spread to academia. Surveys have found that many male faculty members or staff harass at least one in five female scientists, engineers, and medical students.

This led to activists urging scientific societies like AAAS to expel alleged harassers and revoke their awards.

The policy adopted by AAAS is welcomed by activists and advocates. “I am thrilled that AAAS has shown themselves to be the leaders we knew they were,” says BethAnn McLaughlin, a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who recently launched petitions urging AAAS and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to eject harassers. NASEM said in May it is considering revising its bylaws to allow ejection of harassers.

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After the #MeToo movement, many universities and organizations have started replacing names of buildings or objects named after scientists against whom harassment cases have been filed.

For example, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has changed the name of a glacier in Antarctica from Marchant Glacier, which is named after geologist Marchant who has been accused of harassment by multiple women, to Matataua.

In June, University of California-Irvine announced that it was removing Francisco J. Ayala’s name from its School of Biological Sciences after he was found guilty of harassing four women as per an internal report by the university. UCI also announced that it would rename other things on campus bearing Ayala’s name, including a science library, fellowships, endowed chairs, and scholarship programs. AAAS also sanctioned him for the same reason.

Other fellows that AAAS has sanctioned recently for sexual harassment are Thomas Jessell, formerly of Columbia University; Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University Tempe campus; and Inder Verma, formerly of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California.


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