National Science Foundation Issues New Harassment Reporting Requirement

NSF said it made the changes to “ensure the research and learning environments it supports are free from harassment.” Under the new requirement, institutions that have been awarded grants (nearly 2,000 colleges and universities) must notify NSF within 10 days of any findings or determinations that any NSF-funded principal or co-principal investigator (PI) violated the law or the institution’s policies with respect to harassment, including sexual harassment or assault, or if the institution has taken administrative actions or sanctions against the PI or co-PI because of alleged harassment. This includes reporting interim measures when a PI or co-PI is placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. NSF requires the awardee organizations to report via a secure online portal.

NSF originally issued proposed changes on February 8 with Important Notice No. 144, along with a request for comment. CUPA-HR, joined the American Council on Education and five other higher ed associations, in filing comments on May 4. In our comments, we discussed our shared goal of eliminating sexual harassment and sexual assault from the scientific and education workplace; applauded NSF’s efforts to institute reporting requirements to enable receipt of timely and pertinent information pertaining to PIs and co-PIs at awardee institutions; and offered several questions, comments and recommendations to help ensure that the new policy was narrowly tailored to remedy documented discrimination in the workplace and carefully drafted to minimize burdens, confusion and unintended consequences.

For more information, NSF has also released a Q&A document.