National Academy of Science Should Sever Ties with Sexual Harassers
Earlier this week, The National Academy of Sciences held their annual meeting this week, inducting its 2018 class of scholars. Amidst the celebration of science, one thing was notably absent – a discussion of what to do about two of NAS’ most well recognized members – neuroscientist Tom Jessel and cancer geneticist Inder Verma.
In December, Jessel was forced to close his lab at Columbia after HHMI forced the university to confront Jessel’s decades long sexual harassment and inappropriate relationships with trainees after Jessel ousted a female graduate student who rebuffed his advances. Jessell quite literally wrote the book on neuroscience. Co-authoring Principles of Neuroscience with Eric Kandel, Jessell’s work on motor systems pulled him into the ranks of the National Academy in 2002. Predictably, Columbia has little to say about Jessell’s departure but HHMI, which had funded Jessell for more than a decade, took down his HHMI website before the news broke.
Inder Verma was inducted into the National Academy in 1997, Verma was the editor of the NAS flagship journal Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences until he was asked to resign following revelations from colleagues that he also had a decades long history of harassment as reported by Science magazine. Verma grabbed the breasts of women, pinched them, forcibly kissed them and propositioned them.
The rapid response of HHMI stands in stark contrast to that of the National Academy of Sciences. The NAS has a history of leaving women out of their ranks. Two decades ago, less than 5% of new members were women. Now, that number of men is roughly five times that of women.
Established by President Lincoln to advice the nation on pressing issues in science, one charge of the NAS is “to furthering science in America, and its members are active contributors to the international scientific community.” Arguably, this pact of furthering science and contributing to the community have been irrevocably broken by Verma and Jessell by preying upon women.
SIGN THE PETITION
A petition to remove Verma, Jessell and other members of the NAS who have been found guilty of Title IX violations including harassment, retaliation and assault can be found here.