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Academy expels researchers for sexual harassment

The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has expelled researchers accused of sexual harassment. In late May, the organization’s governing body revoked the membership of astrophysicist Geoffrey Marcy, the leader of an influential research group that identified 70 of the first 100 planets discovered outside our Solar System. Marcy was accused of harassing at least four female students between 2001 and 2011, kissing and groping them while he was a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University. The scandal led to his resignation from the former and dismissal from the latter. Today, aged 66, he is director of a nonprofit research institution called Space Laser Awareness.

In an email sent to Science magazine, Marcy denied having acted maliciously. “I have always supported equal opportunity and success for women in academia and science,” he wrote. “My engaging and empathic style could surely be misinterpreted, which is my fault for poor communication. I would never intentionally hurt anyone.” On his removal from the NAS, Marcy said he has not been involved with the academy for over 5 years. The expulsion comes two years after the NAS changed its code of conduct and added sexual harassment to its punishable violations. In mid-2019, then NAS President Marcia McNutt consulted with members of the institution, 86% of whom voted in favor of the change. A month after Marcy was punished, the academy expelled another member: evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala. In 2018, he was fired from the University of California, Irvine, for inappropriate behavior, including inviting an assistant professor to sit on his lap. Ayala denies the accusations.