(Washington, DC) - House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) sent a letter to Dr. Arati Prabhakar, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) sharing concerns that the office is not meeting critical deadlines to reduce sexual harassment in the federally funded scientific enterprise.
Over the past several years, the Science Committee has worked in a bipartisan manner to examine and address critical issues of sexual harassment in the science fields. This includes a comprehensive investigation into the allegations of assault and sexual harassment against a Boston University professor, as well as an ongoing investigation of the rampant culture of sexual harassment and assault in the remote research environment of Antarctica.
In response to this issue, the Committee introduced the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act in 2018, which was subsequently passed via the CHIPS and Science Act in 2022. The law directs OSTP to coordinate federal research agency efforts to reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment in the research community. It also directs OSTP to develop and implement uniform guidelines for federal research agencies.
“This guidance will serve as the blueprint for the policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment across all federal research agencies,” Lucas and Lofgren wrote. “However, the impact will extend beyond federal agency employees to contractors, researchers, and other members of the science and technology enterprise. This congressionally mandated guidance demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. government to reducing instances of sexual harassment across all research environments, domestic and abroad.”
Lucas and Lofgren’s letter to Director Prabhakar highlights OSTP’s failure to meet the established timeline of the directives in the CHIPS and Science Act, including those to develop an inventory and issue guidance on sexual harassment policies and procedures for all federal research agencies. “While the Committee recognizes the care and attention a task of this importance requires, we are concerned that the prescribed deadlines have not been met,” Lucas and Lofgren wrote. The lack of swift action by OSTP on this critical issue is troubling to the Committee and urgently needs to be addressed.
In the letter, the Committee requests answers from OSTP no later than February 2, 2024, relating to their engagement on this issue and the progress that has been made to implement these key directives.
Read more from Lucas and Lofgren in the full letter here.