2019 Workplace Climate and Harassment Survey Final Report – Including Civil Program Data Update

Dear NIH Family,

The landscape of our work environments has changed quite dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic hit us early in 2020. Despite this upheaval, I want to assure you that NIH leadership remains committed to changing the culture to end harassment in science and recognizes the importance of continuing our efforts to ensure NIH is a safe and civil workplace for all.

To that end, I am pleased to share that the 2019 Workplace Climate and Harassment Survey (WCHS) Final Report and related products are now publicly available on the Scientific Workforce Diversity website. You may recall, the WCHS was administered in early 2019 to NIH staff as part of the NIH Anti-Harassment Program. While the pandemic delayed the release of the final products, I am pleased to be able to share them with you today. We also will share them with the broader NIH grantee community to encourage and equip institutions with the resources needed to assess their own workplace climates and design interventions.

I encourage you to visit the survey webpage where you will find a suite of tools developed to make the findings accessible and actionable for the wider community. These include:

  • Survey Findings Report - Summarizes the WCHS purpose, methodology, key results, and conclusions.
  • Infographics (Condensed and Extended) - Provides a concise collection of engaging visuals, charts, and data that highlight the survey’s essential findings.
  • Survey Development and Methods Report - Provides an overview of the logistical and procedural processes involved in developing and administering the WCHS.
  • Survey Implementation Guide - Describes the measures used in the WCHS to be transparent about the methodology and encourage institutions to adopt the instrument as they deem appropriate to their needs.
  • Anti-Harassment Principles - Outlines WCHS findings and places them in the context of the peer-reviewed literature to identify a set of Anti-Harassment Principles to optimize interventions and develop approaches to combat workplace harassment.
  • Summary Frequency Tables - Provides additional context to the survey findings and supports future administrations of the survey instrument.

I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight data that demonstrate the positive difference the NIH Anti-Harassment Program is making for our community. Since implementing and communicating the NIH Policy on Preventing and Addressing Harassment and Inappropriate Conduct, the NIH Policy Statement on Personal Relationships, a new process for handling allegations of harassment, and updating the mandatory anti-harassment training, the NIH Civil Program (Civil) experienced an uptick in reporting of allegations, resulting in a 65% increase in corrective actions  between calendar years 2018 and 2019.  In 2019, Civil reviewed 449 cases of alleged inappropriate conduct, including harassment. This included reviewing 74 cases involving allegations of a sexual nature and 375 allegations of inappropriate conduct of a nonsexual nature.  Those reviews resulted in 44 corrective actions on cases of a sexual nature (61% increase from 2018) and in 102 corrective actions on cases of a nonsexual nature (74% increase from 2018).  Examples of corrective actions include removals, separations during or as a result of an investigation, suspensions, reprimands, cease and desist orders, written and verbal counseling, and remedial training.

While many of us are working remotely, it should not be assumed that it means staff are not experiencing harassment. So far in 2020, Civil has received 261 allegations of inappropriate conduct. This included 24 cases alleging inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature and 237 cases of a nonsexual nature. So far, the reviews have resulted in eight corrective actions for conduct of a sexual nature and 19 for conduct of a non-sexual nature.  There are cases still under review that are not represented in the 2020 numbers. NIH leadership is encouraged by the fact that staff are reporting their concerns to Civil, and that inappropriate conduct is being addressed and corrected. I want to remind you that the policies apply whether you are working remotely or on site.

It has been a year filled with challenges, but we must continue to strive for a safe and respectful workplace for all NIH staff to ensure that “harassment doesn’t work here.” 

With appreciation to all of you for your ongoing support of this important goal,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, NIH