NIH reminds Universities not to keep paying harasser PIs from grant funds while suspended

May 3, 2018

On the May 1, 2018 the NIH issued NOT-OD-18-172 to clarify that:

NIH seeks to remind the extramural community that prior approval is required anytime there is a change in status of the PD/PI or other senior/key personnel where that change will impact his/her ability to carry out the approved research at the location of, and on behalf of, the recipient institution. In particular, changes in status of the PI or other senior/key personnel requiring prior approval would include restrictions that the institution imposes on such individuals after the time of award, including but not limited to any restrictions on access to the institution or to the institution’s resources, or changes in their (employment or leave) status at the institution. These changes may impact the ability of the PD/PI or other senior/key personnel to effectively contribute to the project as described in the application; therefore, NIH prior approval is necessary to ensure that the changes are acceptable.

Hard on the heels of the news breaking about long term and very well-funded NIH grant Principal Investigators Thomas Jessel and Inder Verma being suspended from duties at Columbia University and The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, respectively, one cannot help but draw the obvious conclusion.

I don’t know what prompted this Notice but I welcome it.

Now, I realize that many of us would prefer to see some harsher stuff here. Changing the PI of a grant still keeps the sweet sweet indirects flowing into the University or Institute. So there is really no punishment when an applicant institution is proven to have looked the other way for years (decades) when their well-funded PIs are accused repeatedly of sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, retaliation on whistleblowers and the like.

But this Notice is still welcome. It indicates that perhaps someone is actually paying a tiny little bit of attention now in this post-Weinstein era.

3 Responses to “NIH reminds Universities not to keep paying harasser PIs from grant funds while suspended”

  1. SidVic Says:

    66 and 70 yrs old respectively. I’m sick of these old farts.


  2. mclneuro Says:

    The flip side of this is that it also gives female* grant recipients a way to torment their institutions if they are giving them a hard time during Title IX proceedings.
    If, for CRAZY instance, your university retaliates against you for participating in a Title IX investigation, you should dial down your research time to reflect the time you need to put into these battling these administrative obstacles.
    The university wants to wrap you up and try to silence you? They can do it on their dime, not your grant. And be sure to let your program officer know why you can’t put the time into your research.

    *Or PIs of any gender. I say female because that’s how the numbers break out.


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