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Astronomer Geoff Marcy was accused of harassment at Cal-Berkley in 2015. Photo: Niklas Halle'n/AFP via Getty Images

Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in science and academia, and it's going to take a cultural shift to stop it, according to a new study released from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

Between the lines: The study paints a bleak picture of scientific institutions' culture and treatment of women. It affirms the longstanding argument that Title IX regulations don't go far enough to protect women and prevent harassment, and shows that a cultural shift needs to take place to solve the issue.

The methodology

The study surveyed women in sciences across multiple college campuses to nail down just how many women have experienced some form of harassment while working.

  • Georgia State researcher Kevin M. Swartout compiled data from the University of Texas system as well as the Pennsylvania state system, which combined represents more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate female students enrolled in science programs, as well as some female faculty, the Washington Post notes.

The backdrop: The report comes out in the midst of the #MeToo movement which is rocking major industries such as entertainment and media, but science has long had a problem with sexual misconduct. The Twitter hashtag #ScienceToo sprang up around the report on Tuesday. Several prominent examples of sexual harassment in the sciences during the past few years helped create demand for this study. For example, Geoff Marcy, a world famous astronomer and a professor at Cal-Berkley, was found to have repeatedly violated campus sexual harassment policies without receiving proportionate discipline from the university, BuzzFeed reported in 2015.

Julie Libarkin, an environmental scientist at Michigan State, has compiled a database of 659 cases stretching back to the early 1980's. This isn't new.

The results
  • The study found that 58% of women in all of academia, not limited to science, engineering and medicine experienced some form of sexual harassment.
  • In the University of Texas system, 20% of female science students, more than 25% of female engineering students and 40% of female medical students experienced sexual harassment in some form from faculty or staff.
  • In the Pennsylvania State University system a similar survey found that 50% of female medical students have experienced some form of harassment.

The study also found that women don't typically report these instances because they correctly assume that, if they do, they'd be held back in progressing their careers.

It also found that Title IX, the mechanism used to report sexual harassment on campuses, hasn't worked. Institutions are complying with Title IX in a way that avoids liability, but it isn't going far enough to significantly punish abusers and prevent harassment in the first place.

Recommendations

The report says institutions should reduce the power faculty members hold over students through mechanisms such as group advising. Currently, a single advisor can make or break a graduate student's career.

Organizations should treat harassment accusations with heavy punishment, the study says, like what is currently done for research misconduct allegations, per the Post. It also calls upon institutions to be more proactive in creating an inclusive and diverse culture for women — most notably women of color, who experience harassment more often.

Yes, but: The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine must be held accountable as well. It still lists Marcy as a member despite his accusations and resignation.

The bottom line: In addition to new policies and procedures, a far-reaching culture change is needed in the sciences to prevent harassment moving forward.

Go deeper

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after 3rd woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch, a former member of the Obama administration and the 2020 Biden campaign, told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump talked out of early Ohio endorsement

Jane Timken at a 2017 Trump rally. Photo: Kyle Mazza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Donald Trump had to be talked out of making an early endorsement in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, a sign of his eagerness to reengage politically, people familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

What we're hearing: The former president discussed endorsing former state GOP chair Jane Timken last week during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but top advisers — including Donald Trump Jr. — urged him to wait.

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