Board Statement on Ending Sexual Harassment in Physics

Archived Board Statement

July 17, 2019

Harassment and discrimination in the conduct of physics is unacceptable. While sexual harassment is understood to be a pervasive problem at all levels (reference NASEM report), APS leadership is appalled at the results of a recent survey of women undergraduates studying physics, which showed that nearly 75% of them experienced some form of sexual harassment in the previous two years1. Not only can this harassment be traumatic to the individual who is subjected to it, harassment also does lasting damage to the scientific enterprise by discouraging participation as well as undermining the collaborative environment needed for science to flourish.

To broadly uphold the important core values of diversity, inclusion, and respect, and to enable full participation throughout our physics profession, we should all become part of the solution.

We urge all members of the physics community to adhere to the standards of professional behavior developed by APS members and described in the APS Statement 19.1 - Guidelines on Ethics.

We ask leaders in academia, industry and government to:

  1. Learn and help educate about various forms of harassment.
  2. Train in how to effectively intervene when witnessing harassment.
  3. Teach, train and mentor effectively, and welcome everyone as a valued colleague in the work of moving our field forward.

To support these efforts, APS:

  • plays a major role in the leadership of the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM:
  • established an Ethics Committee, which will promote ethics education to inform the physics community and develop responses to accusations of ethics violations;
  • is a leader among science societies in advancing federal legislation that enhances U.S. funding agencies’ ability to combat sexual harassment in STEM;
  • offers site visits to physics departments, in order to provide an outside appraisal of the environment experienced by women and minorities within the department;
  • established and is enforcing a Code of Conduct at APS meetings, to ensure that the environment is welcoming to all participants and free of harassment; and
  • developed an on-line system – – that enables APS meeting attendees to report cases of harassment confidentially and anonymously.

As stated in the APS Strategic Plan: 2019, APS is committed to full and respectful participation by everyone. Physics thrives when all participants are treated with respect, so we must act now to end sexual harassment in our discipline.

1 L. M. Aycock, Z. Hazari, E. Brewe, K. B. H Clancy, T. Hodapp, and R. M. Goertzen, “Sexual harassment reported by undergraduate female physicists,” Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 15, 010121 (2019)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.15.010121