Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – June 26, 2018

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By: Maryam Zaringhalam, PhD



source: pexels

Women in STEMM

Sexual harassment is rife in the sciences, finds landmark US study

On June 12, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released their report: Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The 311-page report is the most comprehensive study on the topic, characterizing the problem of sexual harassment in academia and providing a series of evidence-based recommendations to combat harassment. The problem is pervasive in academia, with over 50 percent of women faculty and students reporting harassment, which is second only to the military’s 69 percent incidence. While sexual harassment is most often thought of as unwanted sexual advances, the report defined three classes of harassment, broadening this traditional conception: (1) gender harassment; (2) unwanted sexual attention; (3) sexual coercion. Gender harassment is the most prevalent form, which conveys the idea that women don’t belong in the workplace, for instance, by implying inferiority or telling demeaning jokes.

The report also documented the toll sexual harassment takes on academic achievement and career development, with consequences on mental and physical health that can lead to decreased participation in research and leadership, as well as leaving academia entirely. Authors of the report also have pointed out that harassment isn’t restricted to women alone, and that underrepresented minorities (including racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities) have increased risk of harassment The resulting loss of talent deals a major blow to research integrity and progress in STEMM fields.

The study honed in on factors that contribute to harassment, with the largest predictor being institutional organization and environment, including a lack of understanding of the problem and potential mitigation strategies among leadership. The committee put forth a number of recommendations to address the problem. Strategies include treating sexual harassment as scientific misconduct (similar to a policy issued by the American Geophysical Union), improving transparency and accountability within institutions, and increasing diversity and inclusion through anti-harassment and civility-promotion programs.

The consensus study was prepared by the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine and was sponsored by NSF, NASA, NIH, NIST, NOAA, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

(Alexandra Witze, Nature)

Public health

What separation from parents does to children: “The effect is catastrophic”

On June 20th, the Trump administration announced the President would sign an executive order to end the controversial policy separating minors from their parents at the border. The policy had garnered a great deal of opposition from mental health professionals citing research that separation has lasting effects on child welfare and development. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American Psychiatric Association had all issued statements warning of the traumatic effects of family separation. Over 13,000 mental-health professionals and 229 organizations have also signed a petition urging the administration to end the policy.

The effects of family separation have long been documented in case studies around the world—from state-run orphanages under Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime to Australian aboriginal children removed from their families. The effects range from post traumatic stress disorder to lower IQ to a higher risk of addiction later in life.

Notably, the executive order has not alleviated the concerns of the professional societies that expressed concerns about the original policy. The EO maintains the “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings, which will continue to place children in detention facilities. It also does not specify whether or how separated families will be reunited in the future. At least 2,342 children have been separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9, and experts note that even if children are reunited with their parents soon, the trauma will have lasting effects into the future.

(William Wan, Washington Post)


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Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 26, 2018 at 4:55 pm

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