On Feb. 8, 2018, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced in its “Important Notice to Presidents of Universities and Colleges and Heads of Other National Science Foundation Grantee Organization” that it was taking steps to promote safe and productive research environments. Principal among those steps was requiring that for new grant awards that grantee institutions must report findings of sexual harassment by principal investigators or any other grant personnel. NSF may then take “unilateral action” in response to such information, including terminating the grant. This Notice is now out for comment, but in response to several reports of high profile principal investigators in NSF grants being reported and/or found to have engaged in sexual harassment, as well as the current heightened awareness and consciousness of such issues, it clear that NSF will take steps to deny grants to grantees that involved sexual harassers in the grant project.
This step by NSF will require attention from all entities that are or would like to be NSF grantees. A significant portion of NSF grants are health care related. For example, NSF has a program called the Smart and Connected Health Program, designed to develop next generation healthcare solution. Thus, healthcare institutions that currently have or will NSF grants should pay special attention to this notice and examine policies on sexual harassment and whether the conduct of any individuals involved in grant programs implicates the concerns raised by this recent NSF Notice.