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NIH Process for Handling Allegations of 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

flow chart of allegation review process showing same process for notifications of research misconduct, sexual harassment, grant fraud, foreign interference, peer review integrity violations. After initial assessment may contact institution, remove individual from peer review service, refer to agency/office with oversight responsibility, administrative actions, regulatory actions.

  1. Allegations are submitted via

  2. Allegations of harassment, including sexual harassment, discrimination, and other forms of inappropriate conduct that can result in a hostile work environment, 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. Whether the person of concern is involved in and should be removed from peer review service

  4. The NIH Deputy Director of Extramural Research (DDER) sends a letter to the institution (usually the Vice President of Research) regarding the allegation. The letter content includes:
    1. Description/summary of allegation
    2. NIH’s concerns about 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 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 inappropriate conduct and foster 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, but are not limited to:
    1. Coordinating with funding IC(s) on necessary grants management actions
      1. Requesting the recipient institution to identify a replacement principal investigator 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