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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Prominent scientists moving to put teeth behind group's code

The prestigious National Academy of Sciences, with a membership that consists of around 2,000 of the brightest scientific minds in the country, is moving to add some teeth behind its recently adopted code of conduct for its membership.

At present, even in the wake of serious allegations of sexual harassment or other flagrant discrimination, a member of the Academy can only be asked to resign. Should the member refuse, the Academy has no way of forcing the member out.

Provided the membership votes to approve the latest measure, the Academy will have the authority to remove a member for violating its code of conduct. The code of conduct includes strict prohibitions against any behavior that would lead to allegations of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination based on gender.

This change comes as the scientific community faces increased scrutiny in the wake of the #MeToo movement. In one recent case, a prominent scientist had to resign his position at Berkley, a jewel of California's public university system. The astronomer had to resign after he was found culpable for sexually harassing students.

The case of this astronomer does not seem to be an isolated incident. Other noted scientists have also lost their positions after credible allegations of sexual harassment or discrimination. Ongoing investigative reports also suggest that workplaces in the science industry have, rather consistently, been partial to male scientists on a number of levels.

Fresno and the rest of Northern California has plenty of institutions, both public and private, in which female and male scientists work together. Legally, they must have the same opportunities to advance based on their merits, and their employers have an obligation to ensure that they can work in an environment free of discrimination and sexual harassment.

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