Press "Enter" to skip to content

NAS sanctions White House official, changes bylaws to allow member suspensions

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has barred a member, Jane Lubchenco, a White House official and former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from receiving NAS honors and working on publications or programs for the academy or the National Research Council. NAS imposed the sanctions, which will last 5 years and were first reported yesterday by Axios, on 8 August, after the academy concluded Lubchenco violated its code of conduct when she agreed to edit a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on which her brother-in-law, who was also a former Ph.D. student of hers, was an author.

“I accept these sanctions for my error in judgment in editing a paper authored by some of my research collaborators—an error for which I have publicly stated my regret,” Lubchenco, deputy director of climate and environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said yesterday in a statement. The paper, which also had data issues, was published in 2020 and last year was retracted.

NAS first created its code of conduct in 2018 and has since permanently expelled at least three members for violations of it, specifically claims of harassment: evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala, astronomer Geoffrey Marcy, and Peruvian archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters.

But Science has learned that NAS recently changed its bylaws to permit members to be temporarily suspended, rather than permanently ejected. Lubchenco’s punishment under its conduct code is the lightest acknowledged by the academy so far. It is unrelated to the bylaw change, an NAS spokesperson told Science, noting that the publication ban and other sanctions were already allowed for code of conduct violations. Lubchenco, a marine ecologist and former president of AAAS, which publishes Science, remains an NAS member.

The bylaw change to allow member suspensions was approved on 24 June in an online vote open to all 2500 NAS members, with more than 75% of participating members voting in favor. Requested by the standing committee that reviews alleged violations of the academy’s code, the change “will allow the NAS to take meaningful actions on conduct issues with less severe consequences,” its president, Marcia McNutt, said in a statement to Science.

A two-thirds vote of NAS’s 17-member governing council will be required to restore a suspended membership.

Source: Science Mag