The Ethics of Diversity: Fortifying Ethical Infrastructure and Fostering Ethical Leadership to Prevent Sexual Misconduct and Harassment in STEM Research & Practice Settings Grant uri icon


  • Sexual harassment is a major ethical issue across science and engineering fields, but research on this topic is relatively rare in studies of scientific ethics. This project will examine sexual harassment in science and the social contexts in which it occurs to understand how best to prevent and address sexual harassment in STEM settings. The investigators will do so first by conducting a comprehensive literature review to determine the kinds of the policies and practices that lead to ethical climates that prevent and remediate sexual harassment. They will then develop a self-assessment tool that will enable organizations to examine their ability to prevent and manage sexual harassment, and to evaluate if and how the self-assessment tool contributes to improved ethical infrastructures for preventing sexual harassment. Finally, they will develop a teaching module focused on sexual harassment for undergraduate and graduate students that will enhance ethical training and communication. The main project goal is to understand the conditions that contradict sexual harassment in STEM and empower research institutions to strengthen their ethical infrastructures related to sexual harassment. This project will facilitate a more nuanced and realistic understanding of the social and organizational conditions associated with sexual harassment in STEM, and of methods, principles, and strategies for overcoming and preventing it. This project is conceptually innovative in theorizing sexual harassment as resulting from interactions among formal institutional systems, informal influences, and local cultures and climates, rather than simply the behavior of one or two unethical ''bad apples''. It is methodologically innovative in applying a multimodal, multi-wave research design that combines comprehensive literature reviews with social surveys and in-depth interviews to advance basic understanding of these issues and to create a self-assessment tool with broad utility across the sciences and engineering. Project findings and the self-assessment tool will be broadly disseminated. This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • 2019 - 2021