Team Including UMass Amherst’s Sharrow Receives $1 Million NSF ADVANCE Award for Project Addressing Sexual Harassment in Political Science

Collaboration with UNLV, Maryland, Purdue and the American Political Science Association has roots in the global #MeToo movement
Elizabeth Sharrow
Elizabeth Sharrow

AMHERST, Mass. – A team of researchers including Elizabeth Sharrow, assistant professor of political science and history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has received a three-year ADVANCE Partnership Award totaling more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation to implement a project to address sexual harassment in the field of political science.

The project, “#MeTooPoliSci Leveraging A Professional Association to Address Sexual Harassment in Political Science,” will support the adaptation of empirically-tested interventions such as department climate studies, upstanding bystander training, department-level facilitated dialogues and policy changes that support an improved disciplinary climate. It aims to capitalize on the power that professional associations have to model, facilitate and incentivize change in the climate and culture of the disciplines they serve through a substantial partnership with the American Political Science Association (APSA).

“This grant will provide funding to address the serious problems of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the political science field,” Sharrow says. “Sexual harassment diminishes the interest, retention and success of all those who are impacted. Research shows that cisgender women and transgender, gender non-conforming, femme-identified, and non-binary people, as well as other sexual and gender minorities, are the most likely to have their careers be negatively impacted by harassment. The field of political science – as well as other academic fields – will be impoverished so long as these issues remain under-addressed.”

The main output of this project will be a “Climate Toolkit” that will incentivize and empower political science departments to improve awareness and practices, achieve significant measurable improvements in the overall climate and increase department-level attention to broader inclusion issues.

“The activities funded by this grant, including the Climate Toolkit, have the potential to alter the disciplinary conversation and climate,” Sharrow says. “Our discipline-wide approach means that this project has the potential to touch the 125 Ph.D.-granting departments in our field, and the over 1,100 B.A.-granting departments in the country. They have the potential to impact not only the academic world in political science but also the American policy context and academe writ large.”

The total award will fund research by the collaborative team of scholars, which includes Sharrow’s colleagues at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), the University of Maryland College Park, Purdue University and the APSA.

The project, which has its roots in the global #MeToo movement of women providing support for fellow survivors of sexual assault, was initially launched in July 2018 with the help of a $25,000 APSA Special Projects Fund award. The researchers held the first-ever #MeTooPoliSci short course in collaboration with the Women’s Caucus for Political Science at the APSA Annual Meeting in August 2018.

The NSF ADVANCE program is designed to foster gender equity through a focus on the identification and elimination of organizational barriers that impede the full participation and advancement of diverse faculty in academic institutions. Organizational barriers that inhibit equity may exist in policies, processes, practices and the organizational culture and climate. ADVANCE Partnership awards provide support to collaborations among STEM professional societies and academic and non-academic non-profit organizations designed to broaden the implementation of evidence-based equity strategies and have a national or regional reach.