Buried in the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act — a sprawling bill signed into law by U.S. President Joe Biden in late August and primarily aimed at increasing U.S. production of semiconductors and boosting other areas of research and innovation — is a provision that promises new attention to longstanding problem: a $32.5 million funding pot for research into preventing and handling harassment in academia.
Despite a small amount of media attention, prior to interviews with Undark, some experts in sexual and gender-based harassment in academia hadn’t even heard about it. But in a chronically underfunded field, researchers said, the legislation has the potential to be groundbreaking. “The importance of these pieces of the law cannot be overstated,” wrote Lilia Cortina, a professor of psychology and women’s and gender studies at the University of Michigan, in an email to Undark.
The new funding in the CHIPS Act (the acronym stands for “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors”) aims to support evidence-based strategies for preventing harassment in higher education or nonprofit institutions and, when it does occur, reduce its impact. The act directs the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences to create new standards of conduct for scientists and to follow up on a key 2018 NAS report on harassment.