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The National Academy of Sciences Can Now Kick Out Harassers

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Election to the National Academy of Sciences is meant to be a lifetime honor, but anti-harassment activists have been pressuring the organization to remove harassers from its ranks.

The National Academy of Sciences—a 156-year-old non-profit organization founded to advise the federal government on science—has voted to allow for members to be kicked out for sexual harassment, bullying, making up data, and other breaches of scientific ethics.

Previously, the academy’s bylaws didn’t have any provision for removing members. Getting elected to the academy was supposed to be a lifetime honor. Over the past year, however, activists have been pressuring the academy to kick out harassers, after some realized that several high-profile scientists, who had resigned from their jobs after their employers found them guilty of sexual harassment, were nevertheless still members of the National Academy and other prestigious science groups.

Stripping harassers of honors helps to prevent them from maintaining power and potentially intimidating subordinates, supporters argue. The change at the National Academy is a sign of the progress anti-harassment activists have made. It’s also been long in coming.

When questioned about activists’ demands last year, National Academy of Sciences’ leaders would often warn that the bylaws needed to be changed before anyone could be removed from the academy forcibly, and that such a change would take a while. Evidently it has. Around the same time that activists began demanding these changes at the National Academy of Sciences, they agitated for something similar at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which gives out fellowships that are likewise considered career-capping achievements. The AAAS created a process nine months ago to allow for members to request that someone be stripped of a fellowship, if there’s documented evidence they’ve harassed others or cheated in research.

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