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Report: NIH harassment rules failed

A change in policy at the National Institutes of Health and in federal law geared toward preventing researchers from avoiding the consequences of a sexual harassment investigation didn’t keep one researcher from doing just that, Science reported.

David Gilbert, a Florida State University professor and genetics researcher, was able to take two National Institutes of Health grants with him and receive a third one when he left the university for the San Diego Biomedical Research Institute despite a lengthy investigation that found numerous incidents, according to the report. In one, Gilbert sent an email to a graduate student detailing an erotic dream he had involving the student. The university suspended Gilbert for 10 days and removed his endowed chair.

Under NIH policy, institutions are required to tell the agency when the lead investigator on a grant is removed or leaves because of a harassment finding or allegation. Under a change in federal law last year, institutions must tell NIH that a grantee has been disciplined in connection with a harassment finding.

Per the report, NIH learned of Florida State’s investigation a year after it concluded but before Gilbert left for the San Diego institute. The university told NIH that it had reprimanded Gilbert, though it did not share details of the allegations.

Even after NIH officials learned more about the specifics about the allegations, Gilbert received a $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, which is part of NIH, according to the report.

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