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NIH Process for Handling Allegations of Sexual Harassment on an NIH-Funded Project at a Recipient Institution

Learn about NIH's standard procedures for handling allegations involving our recipient community. 


Standard Procedure

high level overview of allegation review process showing research misconduct, sexual harassment, grant fraud, foreign influence, peer review and other allegations coming in and being assessed with actions to consider depending on outcome of the assessment of contacting the institution, removing individuals from peer review service, ref to agency/office with oversight responsibility, administrative actions, regulatory actions.
  1. Allegations are submitted via

  2. Allegations of sexual harassment and other forms of harassment (bullying, racial/ethnic bias, retaliation, etc.) are reviewed by the Office of Extramural Research (OER). If the allegations involve something other than harassment (e.g., misappropriation of funds), it is forwarded to the appropriate agency/office with that oversight responsibility.

  3. Harassment allegations are reviewed by OER staff to assess:
    1. Whether sufficient information exists to proceed (follow-ups may be conducted to obtain additional information)
    2. If NIH-funded grants are involved
    3. If the person of concern is involved in peer review service

  4. For allegations of harassment that involve NIH-funded research, immediate action is taken to remove the person of concern from peer review service while OER seeks information from the institution. The NIH deputy director for extramural research (DDER) sends a letter to the institution (usually to the Vice President of Research) regarding the allegation. The letter content includes:
    1. Description/summary of allegation
    2. NIH’s concerns about sexual harassment in extramural science and a reminder of NIH’s expectations and requirements related to harassment.
    3. A request for information on the following, as applicable:
      1. Whether the alleged events were linked to any NIH-funded activities
      2. Timeline and details of any restrictions placed on person of concern related to allegation
      3. Steps institution has taken to assure NIH-funded research is conducted in a safe and appropriate environment
      4. For persons of concern with NIH funding; who was overseeing NIH awards if the designated principal investigator (PI) was not able to act in a wholly unrestricted manner and whether prior approval from the funding Institute or Center was given for any change in PI, if applicable
      5. Institutional policies that address sexual harassment and fostering a safe and healthy working environment
    4. A request for a response within 30 days

  5. Institutional responses are reviewed to assess:
    1. If an institutional investigation commenced; if there was a finding
    2. The impact, if any, on NIH research
    3. If any identified risks to research staff and/or students have been mitigated
    4. Actions taken and safeguards that have been put in place
    5. Other factors and actions relevant to the allegation

  6. Appropriate actions are taken to ensure NIH-funded research is occurring in a safe environment. These actions may include:
    1. Coordinating with funding IC(s) on necessary grants management actions
      1. Requesting the recipient institution to identify a replacement PI on an NIH award
      2. Holding pending awards associated with the PI of concern while compliance issues are resolved
      3. Declining to approve requests to transfer grants involving the PI to another institution
      4. Requiring special reporting requirements from the institution
    2. Requiring follow-ups with institutions to ensure issues have been fully addressed
image of process described in text above
This page last updated on June 16, 2020
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