GeoEthics > GeoEthics and Profession > Professionalism

Geoethics and Professionalism in the Geosciences

Professionalism in the geosciences refers to the behaviors and attitudes of geoscientists as they interact with colleagues in the work environment and with the public in serving a wide variety of societal needs. The following topics address numerous issues of professionalism that impact the ability of scientists to do their work and for Science to progress. Please use this module as a guide for self-assessment of your classes, lab, department or program. Are there issues that you should be aware of? The goal is to help identify instances of unprofessional conduct, to prevent these from becoming major issues, and to provide the support to encourage scientists to act to mitigate and resolve these issues.

Start the conversation: in your classes, in the coffee room, in departmental meetings and seminars. These issues cannot remain an "open secret" and demand to be explicitly addressed. Consider the following topics, use the following resources to discuss with colleagues/students and for personal reflection. Are you doing all you can to ensure that your work environment ascribes to the highest standards of professionalism?

Principles of Professionalism

Collegiality. Citizenship. Comity. Consensus. Whatever you call it, we all have to get along in the workplace and life. In this module we look at the Responsible Conduct of Scientists: the professional behaviors, attitudes and interpersonal relations of scientists at work. It's a simple matter of RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY: for people and for our Science. This section provides background information on underlying principles that contribute to "workplace climate": trust, responsibility, justice, freedom. Resources and readings from this section provide rich materials for group discussion and personal reflection.

Workplace "Climate"

Is your department/workplace welcoming and inclusive for ALL people? The geosciences have the lowest rate of participation among the STEM disciplines for people from underrepresented groups. What is being done in your department, what can you do personally, to make your work environment inclusive and welcoming to ALL people? "Political correctness" is about respect for human dignity for ALL people. "Locker room banter" is hurtful to many people whether directed towards individuals or not.

Building an Inclusive Department/Program/Profession

  • Of Rocks and Social Justice–Editorial, NATURE GEOSCIENCE, VOL 9, NOVEMBER 2016. "Despite much emphasis on diversity in the US, geoscience remains one of the least diverse scientific disciplines. If we want to achieve and maintain diversity, we need to make our work environments welcoming to a broad spectrum of voices."
  • Inclusive Astronomy–2015 recommendations from the American Astronomical Society; what lessons can be learned for the rest of the geosciences? –Contributed by Carolyn Brinkworth.
  • Building an Inclusive AAS - The Critical Role of Diversity and Inclusion Training for AAS Council and Astronomy Leadership–Carolyn Brinkworth, Allison Byrd Skaer, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Johanna Teske, Sarah Tuttle (2016). White Paper submitted to the AAS Education Task Force.
  • CSWA Survey Workplace Climate and Uncomfortable Conversation About Harassment–AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy report
  • Gender Bias in the Workplace–from UCAR, numerous examples are documented. (Contributed by Carolyn Brinkworth).
  • Values for the Trump Era–by Colleen Flaherty, November 30, 2016 from Inside Higher Education. Philosopher proposes a code of conduct for academics in a time of political uncertainty. MIT faculty members affirm their commitment to shared values.
    • I will not aid in the registering, rounding up or internment of students and colleagues on the basis of their religious beliefs.
    • I will not aid in the marginalization, exclusion or deportation of my undocumented students and colleagues.
    • I will, as my capacities allow, discourage and defend against the bullying and harassment of vulnerable students and colleagues targeted for important aspects of their identity (such as race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.)
    • I will not aid government or law enforcement in activities which violate the U.S. Constitution or other U.S. law.
    • I will not aid in government surveillance. I will not inform.
    • As a teacher and researcher, I will not be bought or intimidated. I will present the state of research in my field accurately, whether or not it is what the government wants to hear. I will challenge others when they lie.
    • I will not be shy about my commitment to academic values: truth, objectivity, free inquiry and rational debate. I will challenge others when they engage in behavior contrary to these values.
    • As an administrator, I will defend my students, faculty and nonacademic staff. I will not allow the expulsion, firing, disciplining, harassment or marginalization of individuals targeted for being members of disfavored groups or for expressing dangerous opinions. I will speak up for academic freedom. I will insist on the autonomy of my institution.
    • I will stand with my colleagues at other institutions, and defend their rights and freedoms.
    • I will be fair and unbiased in the classroom, in grading and in all my dealings with all my students, including those who disagree with me politically.
  • Gendered Skepticism–Colleen Flaherty, January 8, 2015 from Inside Higher Education; New study on online comments suggests big gap in the way men and women perceive evidence of gender bias in sciences.
  • Inclusive Teaching Resources and Strategies–University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching;
  • An international perspective: Science in Australia Gender Equity Athena SWAN Principles
  • Consider making an affirmative statement about inclusiveness on your department webpage. Here is an example from the Department of Geosciences, Boise State University ID USA
  • Here is the MIT Statement of Shared Values
  • The University of California system issued this statement of UC's Principles Against Intolerance–President Janet Napolitano and Chancellors.
  • Does your department or program have a specific Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan? See the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan from UC Davis (contributed by Dawn Sumner).

Be Prepared

Administrators, faculty, staff, students, managers and co-workers may encounter all manner of interpersonal conflicts that may affect the safety and productivity of the work environment. Know how to recognize the signs of potential trouble, intervene early to prevent a bad situation, know the rules, and have a plan in place about how you can respond to mitigate impacts. Here are some thoughts on how to prepare:

  • Be Prepared blog post on Earth and Mind and presentation (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 5.8MB Dec11 16) made to the 2017 AGU Heads and Chairs meeting session on Addressing Harassment and Improving Workplace Climate by David Mogk.

Power in Social Structures


"The scientific enterprise is built on a foundation of trust. Society trusts that scientific research results are an honest and accurate reflection of a researcher's work. Researchers equally trust that their colleagues have gathered data carefully, have used appropriate analytic and statistical techniques, have reported their results accurately, and have treated the work of other researchers with respect. From On Being a Scientist– National Academy of Sciences 3rd Edition (Contributed by Linda Gundersen)

The following are some reflections on trust from: David Resnik, Scientific Research and the Public Trust, Sci Eng Ethics. 2011 Sep; 17(3): 399–409, doi: 10.1007/s11948-010-9210-x

What is trust?

  • Relationship between or among people
  • Between individuals (e.g., doctor-patient) or Groups/Profession
  • To facilitate cooperative social inteactions
  • Business, family relations....shared expectations of behavior
  • To enable risk taking
  • Expectation to use skills and sound judgment
  • Does not know with certainty something will happen
  • judged to be trustworthy
  • Competence, experience, good will
  • Ethical and legal duties
  • Obligation to do what is expected

Trust in Scientific Research

  • Promotes cooperative relationships and activities among researchers, such as collaborative work, publication, peer review, sharing data, replication of research results, teaching, and mentoring
  • Important in research with human subjects
  • Important in facilitating interactions between scientists and granting agencies, journals, universities, human research or animal research review boards, and other organizations or institutions involved in funding, supporting, and overseeing science.
  • A Troubled Tradition It's time to rebuild trust among authors, editors and peer reviewers by David Resnik, American Scientist, 2011 Volume 99, Number 1
  • Current pressures on funding sources can produce a hypercompetitive environment that can lead to unethical behaviors: Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition – Edwards, Marc A. and Roy Siddhartha. Environmental Engineering Science. January 2017, 34(1): 51-61. doi:10.1089/ees.2016.0223. "If a critical mass of scientists become untrustworthy, a tipping point is possible in which the scientific enterprise itself becomes inherently corrupt and public trust is lost, risking a new dark age with devastating consequences to humanity. Academia and federal agencies should better support science as a public good, and incentivize altruistic and ethical outcomes, while de-emphasizing output."

What is Public Trust in Scientific Research

  • Society trusts that scientific research results are an honest and accurate reflection of a researcher's work Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy 2009: ix).
  • The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions (Obama 2009).
  • The mission of the NIH Public Trust Initiative (PTI) is to enable the public to understand and to have full confidence in the research that NIH conducts and supports across the country and throughout the world (National Institutes of Health 2010).
  • Academic medicine is entrusted by society with the responsibility to undertake several important social missions toward improving the health of the public, including education, patient care, and research. This trust is given implicit authority by generous public funding and considerable autonomy (Schroeder et al 1989: 803).
  • Society trusts researchers with public resources To maintain society's trust, scientists must exhibit good stewardship of research resources, adhere to ethical standards, and generate knowledge that has useful applications
  • Society trusts researchers to provide knowledge and expertise that can inform public policy.
  • Policy debates concerning public health, pollution, climate change, economic development, substance abuse, energy utilization,
  • Scientists serve on government advisory bodies and regulatory boards, and give expert testimony to legislative committees.
  • Scientific testimony is often a major factor in criminal cases, products liability litigation, and medical malpractice lawsuits
  • Society trusts scientists to provide knowledge that will yield beneficial applications in medicine, industry, engineering, technology, agriculture, transportation, communication, and other domains
  • Important in gaining public acceptance of new technologies (nuclear power, nanotechnology
  • Essential when the risks and benefits of new technologies are not well understood, because the public must rely on scientists to make informed judgments about those new technologies


The International Council for Science (ICSU) has defined The Principle of Universality (freedom and responsibility) of Science. ICSU Statue 5 states: "The free and responsible practice of science is fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental well-being. Such practice, in all its aspects, requires freedom of movement, association, expression and communication for scientists, as well as equitable access to data, information, and other resources for research. It requires responsibility at all levels to carry out and communicate scientific work with integrity, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and transparency, recognizing its benefits and possible harms.

In advocating the free and responsible practice of science, ICSU promotes equitable opportunities for access to science and its benefits, and opposes discrimination based on such factors as ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political or other opinion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or age." (Contributed by Linda Gundersen)

A large concern of Scientific Freedom, is the expectation that scientific research should be done without fear of overt political pressure.

  • USDA Scientific Integrity Policy Handbook – July 2013 and updated March 8, 2016. "USDA is committed to a culture of scientific integrity.. Science, and public trust in science, thrives in an environment that shields scientific data and analyses and their use in policy making from political interference or inappropriate influcuence. Scientific and technical findings should not be suppressed or altered for political purposes."
  • A recent troubling incident: Trump transition team for Energy Department seeks names of employees involved in climate meetings–article by Steven Mufson and Juliet Eliperin, published December 9, 2016 in the Washington Post.
  • Freedom to Bully,How Laws Intended to Free Information are Used to Harass Researchers–Michael Halpern, February 2015, Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for Science and Democracy. "Open records laws are increasingly being used as a weapon against researchers whose work threatens private interests"
  • New Energy Dept. guidelines: Changing culture or political ploy?–Ellen Powell, January 12, 2017, Christian Science Monitor; "Scientists can now speak freely to the media and publish in scientific journals. The guidelines may set the course for the upcoming confirmation hearing for Energy Secretary – and the department's next four years." Access the U.S. Dept. of Energy Scientific Integrity Policy "This document sets forth a policy intended to 1) ensure a culture of scientific integrity; (2) strengthen the actual and perceived credibility of the Federal Governmentt and Federal Government-sponsored research; (3) facilitate the free flow of scientific and technical informatio consistent with privacy and classification standards and applicable laws, regulations, and DOE Orders and Policies; and (4) establish principles for conveying scientific and technological information to the public."


The dignity of all people must be respected. Attacks on "political correctness" does not give license to denigrate, humiliate, marginalize and abuse. "Locker room banter" is not OK. It is hurtful and has real consequences. Be civil. Enough said.


Scientists have responsibilities at many levels, to: Science, the profession, colleagues, students, employers and employees, clients and end users, the public and humanity. For example, these responsibilities are specifically identified in the

  • Geological Society of America Code of Conduct.
    • The Sciences and Profession
      Geoscientists should seek to advance all disciplines of the geosciences, understand the limitations of their knowledge, and respect objectivity and truth in their professional endeavors. Geoscientists should ensure that their scientific contributions, and those of their collaborators, are thorough, accurate, and unbiased in design, implementation, and presentation. Where appropriate, geoscientists should remain current with developments in their field, share ideas and information, keep accurate and complete laboratory records, maintain integrity in all conduct and publications, and give due credit to the contributions of others. Conflicts of interest and scientific misconduct, such as fabrication, falsification, omission/suppression of results, and plagiarism, are incompatible with this Code.
    • The Students and Colleagues
      Geoscientists should mentor and encourage all students in a manner that is open-minded, objective and enthusiastic; promotes curiosity, and recognizes that education is a fundamental trust conferred by society for the promotion of the student's learning and professional development. Geoscientists should treat associates with respect, regardless of the level of their formal education, encourage them, learn with them, share ideas honestly, and give credit for their contributions.
    • The Employer and Employees
      Geoscientists should promote and protect the legitimate interests of their employers, perform work honestly and competently, fulfill obligations, and safeguard proprietary information. Geoscientists, as employers, should treat subordinates with respect for their professionalism and concern for their well-being, and provide them with a safe, congenial working environment, fair compensation, and proper acknowledgment of their scientific contributions.
    • The Clients and End Users
      Geoscientists accept uncertainty and integrate information with a unique perspective involving time, space, and scale. Geoscientists should provide for, advise, and serve clients and end users in a manner that is honest, objective, competent, dependable, honorable, respectful, and fair.
    • The Public and Humankind
      All geoscientists have a professional responsibility to serve the public interest and welfare and to further knowledge of science for the benefit of humankind. Geoscientists should actively be concerned with the health and welfare of humankind and effectively communicate knowledge about potential natural hazards to the public. Public comments on scientific matters should be made with care and precision, without unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or premature statements.
    • The Environment and Natural Resources
      Geoscientists should strive to communicate their knowledge to protect the environment and to provide appropriate stewardship of natural resources. Geoscientists should also understand and anticipate the consequences of their work on the environment and natural resources.
  • The AGU Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics Scientific Code of Conduct and Professional Ethics also defines Responsibilities (p. 2-4).

    1. Integrity: Members will act in the interest of the advancement of science and take full responsibility for the trustworthiness of their research and its dissemination.

    2. Adherence to Law and Regulations: Members will be aware of and adhere to laws and regulations related to the conduct of research as well as AGU policy on publications, peer review, scientific integrity, and professional ethics.

    3. Research Methods: Members will employ research methods to the best of their understanding and ability, base conclusions on critical analysis of the evidence, and report findings and interpretations fully, accurately, and objectively, including characterization of uncertainties.

    4. Research Records: Members will maintain clear, accurate records of research in ways that will allow verification and replication of their work by others.

    5. Research Findings: Members will share data and findings openly and promptly, as soon as they have had an opportunity to establish intellectual property rights, if appropriate. Members will respect the intellectual property rights of others.

    6. Responsibility: Members will take responsibility for the integrity of their contributions to all publications, funding applications, reports, and other representations of their research. Author credit should be given only to those who have made meaningful contributions to publications. Members will abide by AGU Guidelines to authors (

    7. Acknowledgement: Members will acknowledge the names and roles of those who made significant contributions (such as ideas and scientific discussion)to the research.

    8. Peer Review: Members will adhere to AGU review policy and provide fair, impartial, prompt, and rigorous evaluations and will respect confidentiality when reviewing others' work. Members will welcome constructive criticism and be responsive to peer review.

    9. Conflict of Interest: Members will disclose financial, personal, professional, and other conflicts of interest that could compromise the trustworthiness of their work on AGU committees, publications, research proposals, meeting presentations, and public communications as well as in all review activities.

    10. Public Communication: Members, when representing AGU, will limit professional comments to their areas of scholarly expertise when engaged in public discussions about the application and importance of research findings and will clearly distinguish professional comments from their opinions based on personal views.

    11. Reporting Irresponsible Research Practices: Members will report suspected research misconduct, including fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, and other irresponsible research practices that undermine the trustworthiness of research to the AGU following the procedures of this policy.

    12. Environment: AGU members work to maintain an environment that allows science and scientific careers to flourish. AGU members will not engage in dishonesty, fraud, misrepresentation, coercive manipulation, censorship, or other misconduct that alters the content, veracity, or meaning of research findings or that may affect the planning, conduct, reporting, or application of science.

    13. Societal Considerations: Members have an ethical obligation to weigh the societal benefits of their research against the costs and risks to human and animal welfare and impacts on the environment and society. Members need to be aware of legal requirements in this area.

  • Here's a reflection on Accountability (my father spent a lifetime involved with baseball, and this is a sports parable that applies):
    One name, in particular, kept resurfacing for an upcoming event — always with the same sentiment — "John Scolinos is here????????

    Who is John Scolinos ?? In Nashville, Tennessee , during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA's convention. While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend — Scolinos, I wondered. No matter; I was just happy to be there. In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

    Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

    After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he'd gotten on stage.

    Then, finally ..."You're probably all wondering why I'm wearing home plate around my neck," he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. "I may be old, but I'm not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I've learned in my life, what I've learned about home plate in my 78 years." Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room.

    "Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League? After a pause, someone offered, "Seventeen inches?", more of a question than answer."That's right," he said. "How about in Babe Ruth's day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?"Another long pause.

    "Seventeen inches?" a guess from another reluctant coach.

    "That's right," said Scolinos. "Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?" Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. "How wide is home plate in high school baseball?

    "Seventeen inches," they said, sounding more confident. "You're right!" Scolinos barked. "And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?"

    "Seventeen inches!" we said, in unison. "Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?"............"Seventeen inches!

    "RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?

    "Seventeen inches!"

    "SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!" he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. "And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can't throw the ball over seventeen inches?" Pause. "They send him to Pocatello !" he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. "What they don't do is this: they don't say, 'Ah, that's okay, Jimmy. You can't hit a seventeen-inch target? We'll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We'll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can't hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'"

    Pause. "Coaches..." pause, "... what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate? The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach's message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. "This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don't teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!"

    Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. "This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?"

    Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross. "And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it."

    "And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don't apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate and we see our country falling into a dark abyss while we watch."

    I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

    "If I am lucky," Coach Scolinos concluded, "you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools & churches & our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to ..."

    With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside, "... dark days ahead."

    Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach. His message was clear: "Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches."

    And this my friends is what our country has become and what is wrong with it today, and how to fix it. "Don't widen the plate."

Responsibility of Science To Society

AAAS (see Survey Results) believes that, if the U.S. is to respond effectively to the challenges of the 21st century, we must find ways to reorganize our science and technology enterprise to

  • address tomorrow's needs and aspirations
  • maintaining global sustainability,
  • improving human health,
  • addressing economic disparities,
  • understanding our place in the universe,
  • promoting peace and security, and
  • directing the products of technology toward the betterment of society, nationally and worldwide".
Other useful resources can be found:

Responsibility to Report, Self-Police

(Un)Professional Behaviors


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines Harassment " a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws."

"Harassment due to a person's sexual identity, gender, race, or other protected class, consists of a single intense and severe act or of multiple persistent or pervasive acts which are unwanted, unwelcome, demeaning, abusive, offensive, and/or create a hostile professional or workplace environment. These acts may include epithets, slurs, or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts; denigrating jokes and display or circulation of written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or a group identity. Sexual harassment, in addition, may include any unwanted and/or unwelcome sexual solicitation, physical advance, or verbal or non-verbal conduct that is sexual in nature."

The Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, June 2016) report has comprehensive recommendations for addressing harassment in the workplace.

Workplace Harassment Remains a Persistent Problem. Almost fully one third of the approximately 90,000 charges received by EEOC in fiscal year 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment. This includes, among other things, charges of unlawful harassment on the basis of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy), race, disability, age, ethnicity/national origin, color, and religion. While there is robust data and academic literature on sex-based harassment, there is very limited data regarding harassment on other protected bases. More research is needed.

Workplace Harassment Too Often Goes Unreported. Common workplace-based responses by those who experience sex-based harassment are to avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behavior. The least common response to harassment is to take some formal action - either to report the harassment internally or file a formal legal complaint. Roughly three out of four individuals who experienced harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager, or union representative about the harassing conduct. Employees who experience harassment fail to report the harassing behavior or to file a complaint because they fear disbelief of their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation.

There Is a Compelling Business Case for Stopping and Preventing Harassment. When employers consider the costs of workplace harassment, they often focus on legal costs, and with good reason. Last year, EEOC alone recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment - and these direct costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Workplace harassment first and foremost comes at a steep cost to those who suffer it, as they experience mental, physical, and economic harm. Beyond that, workplace harassment affects all workers, and its true cost includes decreased productivity, increased turnover, and reputational harm. All of this is a drag on performance - and the bottom-line.

It Starts at the Top - Leadership and Accountability Are Critical. Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment. The importance of leadership cannot be overstated - effective harassment prevention efforts, and workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated, must start with and involve the highest level of management of the company. But a commitment (even from the top) to a diverse, inclusive, and respectful workplace is not enough. Rather, at all levels, across all positions, an organization must have systems in place that hold employees accountable for this expectation. Accountability systems must ensure that those who engage in harassment are held responsible in a meaningful, appropriate, and proportional manner, and that those whose job it is to prevent or respond to harassment should be rewarded for doing that job well (or penalized for failing to do so). Finally, leadership means ensuring that anti-harassment efforts are given the necessary time and resources to be effective.

Training Must Change. Much of the training done over the last 30 years has not worked as a prevention tool - it's been too focused on simply avoiding legal liability. We believe effective training can reduce workplace harassment, and recognize that ineffective training can be unhelpful or even counterproductive. However, even effective training cannot occur in a vacuum - it must be part of a holistic culture of non-harassment that starts at the top. Similarly, one size does not fit all: Training is most effective when tailored to the specific workforce and workplace, and to different cohorts of employees. Finally, when trained correctly, middle-managers and first-line supervisors in particular can be an employer's most valuable resource in preventing and stopping harassment.

New and Different Approaches to Training Should Be Explored. We heard of several new models of training that may show promise for harassment training. "Bystander intervention training" - increasingly used to combat sexual violence on school campuses - empowers co-workers and gives them the tools to intervene when they witness harassing behavior, and may show promise for harassment prevention. Workplace "civility training" that does not focus on eliminating unwelcome or offensive behavior based on characteristics protected under employment non-discrimination laws, but rather on promoting respect and civility in the workplace generally, likewise may offer solutions.

It's On Us. Harassment in the workplace will not stop on its own - it's on all of us to be part of the fight to stop workplace harassment. We cannot be complacent bystanders and expect our workplace cultures to change themselves. For this reason, we suggest exploring the launch of an It's on Us campaign for the workplace. Originally developed to reduce sexual violence in educational settings, the It's on Us campaign is premised on the idea that students, faculty, and campus staff should be empowered to be part of the solution to sexual assault, and should be provided the tools and resources to prevent sexual assault as engaged bystanders. Launching a similar It's on Us campaign in workplaces across the nation - large and small, urban and rural - is an audacious goal. But doing so could transform the problem of workplace harassment from being about targets, harassers, and legal compliance, into one in which co-workers, supervisors, clients, and customers all have roles to play in stopping such harassment.

Sexual Harassment

The U.S. EEOC website on Facts About Sexual Harassment states that "Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government".

The Scope of the Problem

  • The December 29 article from Wired Magazine on Harassment in the Sciences provides a month recap of 2016 news stories on this topic.
  • AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct
    • Overall, 11.7 percent of student respondents across 27 universities reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled at their university.
    • The incidence of sexual assault and sexual misconduct due to physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation among female undergraduate student respondents was 23.1 percent, including 10.8 percent who experienced penetration.
    • Overall rates of reporting to campus officials and law enforcement or others were low, ranging from five percent to 28 percent, depending on the specific type of behavior.
    • The most common reason for not reporting incidents of sexual assault and sexual misconduct was that it was not considered serious enough.
    • Other reasons included because they were "embarrassed, ashamed or that it would be too emotionally difficult," and because they "did not think anything would be done about it." More than six in 10 student respondents (63.3 percent) believe that a report of sexual assault or sexual misconduct would be taken seriously by campus officials.
  • Not a Fluke: That Case of Sexual Harassment or Assault is not an isolated Incident!–Julie Libarkin, Geocognition Research Laboratory at Michigan State University, has posted this compilation of documented cases of sexual harassment or assault. As of 12/20/2016 there are 485 documented cases and counting!
  • Sexual Harassment: Defining the Problem–posted by John Johnson, May 12, 2014, in Women in Astronomy.

Impacts: They are Real, Destructive, and often Irreparable

(Unfortunately, this is only a sampling of cases too numerous to count.....)

Institutional Actions

Professional Societies Respond

Policies, Procedures and Guidance

The U.S. EEOC provides Policy Guidelines for cases of sexual harassment regarding Title VII related to:

  • determining whether sexual conduct is "unwelcome";
  • evaluating evidence of harassment;
  • determining whether a work environment is sexually "hostile";
  • holding employers liable for sexual harassment by supervisors; and
  • evaluating preventive and remedial action taken in response to claims of sexual harassment.

Similar policies are in place in France: Scientific Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Harassment (Acrobat (PDF) 72kB Jan8 17)

Balancing Rights: Confidentiality, Due Process, and the Need to Act

People who have been subject to harassment need clear paths to report incidents, and to be protected from their harassers. At the same time, Human Resource issues require confidentiality and due process of policies must be followed. These are fraught issues. Are you and your department/program prepared to deal with an emergent report of sexual harassment in a manner that will protect the safety of those who were impacted in a timely fashion? It's best to be proactive in these matters, to have preventative interventions in place before really serious situations emerge, to know what due process entails in your work situation, and to have a plan in place for immediate action if a situation does arise.


Case Studies–In the News

Sexual Harassment in the Field

Be Proactive, Have A Plan in Place


Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others in the professional environment that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. These actions can include abusive criticism, humiliation, the spreading of rumors, physical and verbal attacks, and professional exclusion and isolation of someone.The Workplace Bullying Institute defines Workplace Bullying as "...repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is :

  • Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or
  • Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or
  • Verbal abuse

A more comprehensive definition of Workplace Bullying was submitted to the AGU Ethics Task Force by Mary Anne Holmes:

Workplace bullying is defined as a situation in which one or several individuals persistently, and over a period of time, perceive themselves as being on the receiving end of negative actions from superiors or coworkers, and where the target of the bullying finds it difficult to defend him or herself against these actions (Einarsen and Skogstad, 1996; Olweus, 1993). That is, while many instances of interpersonal aggression take the form of individual episodes, workplace bullying is by definition characterized by systematic and prolonged exposure to repeated negative and aggressive behaviour of a primarily psychological nature, including non-behaviour and acts of social exclusion (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, and Cooper, 2011; Leymann, 1996). As opposed to many other concepts describing interpersonal aggression, workplace bullying is not an either/or phenomenon, but rather a gradually evolving process (Einarsen, 2000). Furthermore, as opposed to, for instance, the concept of abusive supervision, workplace bullying captures aggression from superiors, subordinates and coworkers alike (Tepper, 2007; Zapf and Einarsen, 2011). In line with this, the concept of workplace bullying focuses on the target, as opposed to many other concepts that tend to mainly focus on perpetrators who may behave badly towards many different targets (see also Tepper, 2007). In workplace bullying, it is often the case that a target is singled out and victimized by a range of perpetrators (Zapf and Einarsen, 2011).

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has a very useful Fact Sheet on Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behavior: What Everyone Needs to Know that documents examples of bullying, effects of bullying on people and organizations, and remedies.

Other useful resources on academic bullying include:

  • Bully in the Ivory Tower: How Aggression and Incivility Erode American Higher Education–Leah P.. Hollis, 2012, and the related essay Bullying in Academe by Raymonda Burgman from Inside Higher Education.
  • Mediating in the Academic Bully Culture: The Chair's Responsibility to Faculty and Graduate Students–from Tomorrow's Professor posting #992, by Barbara M. De Luca and Darla J. Twale, authors of Faculty Incivility (Jossey-Bass, 2008). This article appeared in The Department Chair: A Resource for Academic Administrators, Winter 2010, Vol. 20, No. 3.
  • Twale, D.J. and De Luca, B.M., 2008. Faculty incivility: The rise of the academic bully culture and what to do about it (Vol. 128). Jossey-Bass.
  • Martin, M.M., Goodboy, A.K. and Johnson, Z.D., 2015. When Professors Bully Graduate Students: Effects on Student Interest, Instructional Dissent, and Intentions to Leave Graduate Education. Communication Education, 64(4), pp.438-454.
  • Check out this first-hand account by Rochelle Poole Bullied Out of Research published in Science magazine, October 28, 2016, p. 514.
  • Cassell, M.A., 2011. Bullying in academe: Prevalent, significant, and incessant. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 4(5), p.33.
  • Clark, C.M., Olender, L., Kenski, D. and Cardoni, C., 2013. Exploring and addressing faculty-to- faculty incivility: A national perspective and literature review. Journal of Nursing Education, 52(4), pp.211-218.
  • Frazier, K.N., 2011. Academic Bullying: A Barrier to Tenure and Promotion for African-American Faculty. Florida Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, 5(1), pp.1-13.
  • Keashly, L. and Neuman, J.H., 2010. Faculty experiences with bullying in higher education: Causes, consequences and management. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 32(1), pp.48-70.
  • Lampman, C., Phelps, A., Bancroft, S. and Beneke, M., 2009. [link 9560-x 'Contrapower harassment in academia: A survey of faculty experience with student incivility, bullying, and sexual attention']. Sex Roles, 60(5-6), pp.331-346.
  • McKay, R., Arnold, D.H., Fratzl, J. and Thomas, R., 2008. [link 9073-3 'Workplace bullying in academia: A Canadian study']. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 20(2), pp.77-100. (REFERENCES TO STUDIES IN NON-U.S. COUNTRIES)
  • Nielsen, M. B. and Einarsen, S. 2012. Outcomes of exposure to workplace bullying: A meta-analytic review, Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations, 26:4, 309-332.
  • Piotrowski, C. and King, C., 2016. The Enigma of Adult Bullying in Higher Education: a Research-based Conceptual Framework. Education, 136(3), pp.299-306.
  • Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., and Cooper, C., 2010, Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in the Theory, Research, and Practice, Second Edition, CRC Press, 512 pp.
  • Einarsen, S., & Skogstad, A. (1996). Prevalence and risk groups of bullying and harassment at work. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5(2), 185–202.
  • Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., & Cooper, C. L. (2011). The concept of bullying and harassment at work: The European tradition. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and harassment in the workplace (pp. 3–40). London: Taylor & Francis.
  • Leymann, H. (1996). The content and development of mobbing at work. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5(2), 165–184.
  • Einarsen, S. (2000). Harassment and bullying at work: A review of the Scandinavian approach. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 5(4), 379–401.
  • Tepper, B. J. (2007). Abusive supervision in work organizations: review, synthesis, and research agenda. Journal of Management 33(3), 261-289.
  • Zapf, D., & Einarsen, S. (2011). Individual antecedents of workplace bullying. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and harassment in the workplace (pp. 177–200). London: Taylor & Francis.
  • D'Cruz, P., 2015, Depersonalized Bullying at Work From Evidence to Conceptualization, Springer Verlag.
  • Keashley, L., 2010, Some Things You Need to Know but may have been Afraid to Ask: A Researcher Speaks to Ombudsmen about Workplace Bullying, Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, vol 3 #2. This is a really nice overview of the patters of behavior and the impacts!
  • Fogg, P. (2008). [link 'Academic Bullies]. Chronicle of higher Education, 55(3).
  • Frazier, K. N. (2011). Academic Bullying: A Barrier to Tenure and Promotion for African-American Faculty. Florida Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, 5(1), 1-13.
  • Bullying of Academics in Higher Education'
  • Bully in the Ivory Tower: How Agression and INcivility Erode American Higher Education–from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, Dr. Leah Hollis, (video recording)
  • Addressing Incivility in the Classroom: Effective Strategies for Faculty–from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, Dr. Chavella Pittman, (video recording)
  • (In)Civility in Academic Spaces–from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, Dr. Adeline Koh, (video recording)
Many of the References Above were Compiled by Mary Anne Holmes


Examples of cyber-bullying is all too present in the daily news. As a profession, we increasingly use listservs, blogs, posting videos and much more in ways that have the potential of impacting individuals in a universal and irreversible manner. Self-monitoring and self-regulating actions by the community are needed. Here are examples:

Additional Resources


From the AGU Harassment webpage: According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employer may not fire, demote, harass or otherwise "retaliate" against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination. The same laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability, as well as wage differences between men and women performing substantially equal work, also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding.

In addition to the protections against retaliation that are included in all of the laws enforced by EEOC, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also protects individuals from coercion, intimidation, threat, harassment, or interference in their exercise of their own rights or their encouragement of someone else's exercise of rights granted by the ADA.


Implicit Bias

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions that are activated involuntarily without an individual's awareness or intentional control (American Women i n Science). Implicit bias refers to attitudes and stereotypes that affect perception and judgment without our being aware of it.

  • Implicit Bias in STEM– resources developed by American Women in Science
  • Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students–Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman; PNAS
  • Visit the Project Implicit, which was founded in 1998 by three scientists – Tony Greenwald(University of Washington), Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard University), and Brian Nosek (University of Virginia). On this site you will find 14 versions of the Implicit Association Test which "measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report...The IAT measures the strength of associations between concepts (e.g., black people, gay people) and evaluations (e.g., good, bad) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, clumsy). " Follow this portal to take the IAT.
  • Unconscious Bias Training–produced by Google Ventures (submission from Allie Byrd Skaer and Carolyn Brinkworth)
  • Gender Bias in the Workplace–examples from UCAR, (submission from Allie Byrd Skaer and Carolyn Brinkworth)
  • Quality of evidence revealing subtle gender biases in science is in the eye of the beholder–Ian M. Handley, Elizabeth R. Brown, Corinne A. Moss-Racusi, and Jessi L. Smith, PNAS October 27, 2015 col 112, #43, 13201-13206,
  • Examples of work environments hostile to women are reported in Women engineers describe unfriendly work environments in study–reported by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, October 27, 2016, Chicago Tribune
  • Gender differences in recommendation letters for postdoctoral fellowships in geoscience–Kuheli Dutt, Danielle, L. Pfaff, Ariel F. Bernstein, Joseph S. Dillard and Caryn J. Block,
  • Presumed Incompetent: Race, Gender and Class in Academia–from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity; Slides, Audio and Transcripts of presentation by Dr. Carmen Gonzalez, Professor of Law at Seattle University School of Law.
  • Science Faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students–Corinne Moss-Racusin, John Dovidio Victoria Brescoll, Mark Graham and Jo Handelsman, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol 109 #41, 16474-16479 and related interview Why Does John Get the STEM Job Rather Than Jennifer? (Clayman Institute for Gender Studies, Stanford University).
  • Banaji, M. R., M. H. Bazerman, and D. Chugh (2003), How (un) ethical are you? Harvard Business Review, 81(12), 56-65.
  • Barres, B. A. (2006), Does gender matter? Nature, 442(7099), pp. 133-136. DOI:10.1038/442133a
  • Bertrand, M., and S. Mullainathan (2003), Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination (No. w9873). National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Greenwald, A. G., and L.H. Krieger (2006), [link 'Implicit bias: Scientific foundations']. California Law Review, 94(4), 945-967.
  • Holmes, M. A., P. Asher, J. Farrington, R. Fine, M. S. Leinen, and P. LeBoy (2011), Does gender bias influence awards given by societies?. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 92(47), 421. DOI: 10.1029/2011EO470002.
  • Moss-Racusin, C. A., J.F. Dovidio, V. L. Brescoll, M.J. Graham, and J. Handelsman (2012), Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students. Proc. Natl Acad Sciences, DOI 10.1073/pnas.1211286109
  • Rudman, L. A., R. D. Ashmore, and M.L. Gary (2001), "Unlearning" automatic biases: the malleability of implicit prejudice and stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(5), 856-868. DOI:">10.1037/0022-3514.81.5.856.
  • Steinpreis, R. E., K. A. Anders and D. Ritzke (1999), The impact of gender on the review of the curricula vitae of job applicants and tenure candidates: A national empirical study. Sex roles, 41(7), 509-528. DOI: 10.1023/A:1018839203698.
  • Harvard's Project Implicit: people should begin here and take the test for free. You can also learn about the extensive research done.
  • Association for Women in Science's RAISE Project to increase the number of women who receive awards from professional societies.
  • Gender Bias Bingo: a way to introduce faculty and staff to the impact of implicit bias
  • University of Michigan's STRIDE Committee
  • University of Washington's ADVANCE program videos on implicit bias in search committee deliberations
  • University of Wisconsin's WISELI Program (evaluation rubrics)
  • Virginia Tech Portal attempts to capture all ADVANCE programs and research

Empowering Bystanders

Toxic Dumping–"Pass the Harasser"

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., called for a change in law that would require universities to disclose the results of sexual harassment investigations to other universities that are considering hiring their professor. Wired (reported by Sarah Zhang 1/13/2016) reports on Rep Jackie Speier on Why She's Taking on Sexual Harassment in Science

UA sexual harassment spotlighted in Congress

Appropriate Behavior at Meetings

Professional Relations

There are many types of professional relations that require adherence to ethical principles: relationships with an asymmetrical distribution of power (faculty-student; supervisor-worker; reviewer-author; editor-author), or that require specific ethical obligations (e.g., contractor-client; expert witness). This section explores many aspects of these types of interpersonal professional relations.


Mentoring is a special relationship between a master and novice that is built on a strong foundation of trust. Rebecca Haacker and Val Sloan (UCAR) in a 2016 AGU workshop on Research Mentoring of Young Scientists from Undergrads to Postdocs (PowerPoint 7.1MB Jan8 17) make this distinction:

An advisor:

  • Guides students on academic progress through their program.
  • Clarify requirements and procedures
  • Check in on progress
  • Assess status
  • Discuss plans

A mentor:

  • Plays a more expansive role in the mentee's development.
  • Provides wisdom, empathy, respect, knowledge, and support
  • Is a guide within the scientific discipline
  • Supports professional development
  • Facilitates networking
  • Explores career possibilities together
Useful resources on Mentoring Include:
  • Preparing Mentors for Your REU Program–GEO REU Resources Center (UCAR/SOARS)
  • Mentoring Manual–Institute for Broadening Participation
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Portal RCR-Mentoring
  • Collaborating with Students–On the Cutting Edge, Early Career workshop program
  • Mentoring for Transitions–After the Bachelors–On the Cutting Edge, Undergraduate Research as Teaching Practice module
  • Practice Good Advising and Mentoring–InTeGrate Project
  • Mentoring –from Resources for Research Ethics Education; a rich compilation of information and guidelines for ethical approaches to mentoring students.
  • On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct of Research, Third Edition, 2009 National Academy Press. Advising and Mentoring pages 4-7; (download the full PDF from the NAP site)
  • A Guide to Mentoring Undergraduates in the lab–Philip S. Lukeman, Nature Nanotechnology 8, 784–786 (2013) doi:10.1038/nnano.2013.237. "Mentoring undergraduates in a research laboratory requires a different set of skills and approaches than for other lab members. However, if a mentor — be it a faculty member, postdoc or graduate student — can adopt these methods, it can lead to a significantly improved lab experience for everyone involved."
  • Mentoring Up: Learning to Manage Your Mentoring Responsibilities– Tomorrow's Professor Posting #1525, November 17, 2016. From Chapter 7 – "Mentoring Up": Learning to Manage Your Mentoring Relationships, by Steven Paul Lee, Richard McGee, Christine Pfund, and Janet Branchaw, in the book, The Mentoring Continuum – From Graduate School through Tenure, edited by Glenn Wright. Copyright © 2015 The Graduate School Press of Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244. " Seven core principles that provide a foundation to understanding the various aspects of an effective mentoring relationship that can mutually benefit the mentee and mentor."
  • Five Effective Strategies for Mentoring Undergraduates: Students' Perspectives– Mario Pita, Christophere Ramirez, Mathanaelle Joacin, Sarah PRentice, and Christy Clarke, CUR Quarterly, Spring 2013, Vol 33 #3.
  • The Qualities and Impacts of a Great Mentor–and How to Improve Your Own Mentoring–Paul Grogan, Val Eviner, and Sarah Hobbie, Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, April 2013, p. ;170-176; and updated tables of qualities of a good mentor.
  • Weil, V., 2001, Mentoring: some ethical considerations : Science and Engineering Ethics, 7, p. 471-482.
  • Anderson, M. S., Ronning, E. A., de Vries, R., and Martinson, B. C., 2007, The perverse effects of competition on scientists' work and relationships: Science and Engineering Ethics, 13, p. 437-461.
  • Pole, C. J., Sprokkereef, A., Burgess, R. G., Lakin, E., 2006, Supervision of doctoral students in the natural sciences: expectations and experiences: Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 22, p. 49-63.

Writing Letters of Recommendation and Performance Review

  • Obtaining Outstanding Recommendations–Shannon Craigo-Snell, December 2, 2016, from Inside Higher Education
  • Tips for Writing Recommendation Letters–Manya Whitaker, posted December 2, 2016 from Inside Higher Education
  • Gender differences in recommendation letters for postdoctoral fellowships in geoscience–Kuheli Dutt, Danielle, L. Pfaff, Ariel F. Bernstein, Joseph S. Dillard and Caryn J. Block, 2016, Nature Geoscience, DOI:10.1038/ngeo2819
  • Madera, J. M., M. R. Hebl, and R.C. Martin (2009), Gender and letters of recommendation for academia: Agentic and communal differences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(6), 1591.
  • Schmader, T., J. Whitehead, and V. H. Wysocki (2007), A linguistic comparison of letters of recommendation for male and female chemistry and biochemistry job applicants. Sex roles, 57(7), 509-514. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9291-4.
  • Trix, F., and C. Psenka (2003), Exploring the color of glass: Letters of recommendation for female and male medical faculty. Discourse and Society, 14(2), 191-220. DOI: 10.1177/0957926503014002277.


Diversity is an opportunity, not an obstacle. Our profession is stronger if we embrace the diversity of people, interests, experiences and abilities. We can't afford to waste human capital. Is your department/program/workplace welcomingn for all people? Are you proactively recruiting to broaden participation in the geosciences? Here are references why this is important, and what you can do to address this issue.

Guidance for developing diversity programs

Handbook on Law and Diversity: Navigating a Complex Landscape to Foster Greater Faculty and Student Diversity in Higher Education–AAAS published 28 April 2010.

Broadening Participation in the Geosciences

Numerous programs funded by the National Science Foundation and other institutions have developed substantial resources to support broadening participation in the geosciences:

People with Disabilities

LGBQT Community

General References for Students from Underrepresented Groups

  • Broadening Participation – National Science Foundation. Includes A Framework for Action and Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Broadening Participation Projects reports.
  • Obstacles to Recruitment of Minorities into the Geosciences: A call to action – S. O'Connell and M.A. Holmes (2011), GSA Today, v. 21, #6, doi: 10.1130/G105GW.1.
  • Chang, M.J., J. Sharkness, S. Hurtado, and C.B. Newman (2014), What matters in college for retaining aspiring scientists and engineers from underrepresented racial groups, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, volume 51 (5), 555-580.
  • Clewell,B. C., de Cohen, C. C., Tsui, L., & Deterdening N. (2006) Revitalizing the Nation's Talent Pool in STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Urban Institute; Washington, DC.
  • Hurtado, S., Newman, C.B., Minh, C. and Chang, M. J., Improving the rate of success for underrepresented racial minorities in STEM fields: insights from a national project, New Directions for Institutional Research, 2010, issue 148, p 5-15, DOI: 10.1002/ir.357.
  • Doctoral Initiative on Minority Attrition and Completion–Council of Graduate Schools
    . With a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF grant #1138814, "Completion and Attrition in AGEP and non-AGEP institutions"), the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) examined patterns of completion and attrition among URMs in STEM doctoral programs across twenty-one institutions in the United States, including those institutions affiliated with NSF's Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program. The project has assembled the largest dataset of its kind to estimate the percentage of URM doctoral students in STEM fields who completed or withdrew from their program, and the time it took them to complete the doctoral degree. The project also sheds light on the range of supports available at institutions to support these students, using input from URM doctoral students enrolled in STEM programs, as well as university personnel.
  • Teaching Urban Students – from Pedagogy in Action.
  • Urban Students, Urban Issues: Resources and Opportunities for Teaching Geosciences – from On the Cutting Edge.

Focus on Hispanic Students

  • Why are there so few Hispanic students in the Geosciences? – P.J. Stokes, R. Levine, and K. Flessa, (2013), GSA Today, v. 24 #1, doi: 10.1130/GSATG176GW.1.
  • Lisa C. Hammersley, R Levine, K Cornwell, J. E. Kusnick, B. P. Hausback, The Geology of Mexico: A Quantitative Evaluation of a Course Designed to Increase the Number of Hispanic Students Participating in the Geosciences at California State University, Sacramento, Journal of Geoscience Education, 2012, 60, 2, 189.

Focus on Afro-American Students

  • Effective Strategies to Increase Diversity in STEM Fields; A Review of the Research Literature-–L. Tsui, 2007, the Journal of Negro Education, v. 76 #4, pp. 555-581.

Focus on Native American Students

  • Weaving Native Knowledge into STEM Teaching and Learning at Tribal Colleges and Universities (2008). Prepared by Systemic Research Inc, Jason Kim and Linda Crasco; A report based on TCUP Self Evaluation Templates (TSET), Tribal colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) sponsored by NSF.
  • Riggs, E.M., 2005, Field-based education and indigenous knowledge: Essential components of geoscience education for Native American communities. Science Education, v. 89, p. 296-313. doi: 10.1002/sce.s0032.
  • Riggs. E.M., Robbins, E., and Darner, R., 2007, Sharing the land: <a>Attracting Native American students to the geosciences</a>. Journal of Geoscience Education, v 55, p. 478-485.
  • Riggs, E.M., and Semken, S.C., 2001, Culture and Science: Earth science for Native Americans. Geotimes, 46, 14-17.

A Focus on Women

  • Holmes, M.A., O'Connell, S., and Dutt, K., 2015, <a>Women in the Geosciences: Practical, Positive Practices Towards Parity</a>, Wiley/AGUISBN: 978-1-119-06785-6.
  • Hill, C., Corbett, C. and St. Rose, A. (2010) <a>Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics</a> – AAUW.
  • Gender Bias in the Workplace–from UCAR, numerous examples are documented. (Contributed by Carolyn Brinkworth).

Cultural Sensitivity/Literacy

Publication Ethics

Publication Ethics often are considered to be part of Responsible Conduct of Research. But publication ethics also encompasses a variety of interpersonal interactions that can be included in professionalism: Relations between editors, authors and reviewers and between authors; and related to issues of confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and related issues of trust.

Credit for Publication

Writing Journal/Grant Reviews

Field/Lab/Workplace Safety

Collaborative Research and Competition

Data and Publication Rights and Policies

Conflicts of Interest

Contractor/Client Relations


Serving as an Expert Witness



The Task Group on Global Geoscience Professionalism lists these Possible Discipline Outcomes: "Most legislated geoscience bodies have the ability to discipline a member, where and when appropriate, up to and including the right to revoke membership, to remove the right to title and to remove the right to practise geoscience in the jurisdiction concerned. Other geoscience bodies and learned societies generally also have the right to discipline members, where and when appropriate, up to and including the right to revoke the membership and to remove the right to title, but not the ability to remove the right to practise geoscience in the jurisdiction concerned. The consequences noted are among the most stringent available to the geoscience bodies. Other various discipline measures are available such as reprimand, mediation, and fines."

This webpage was authored by David Mogk with significant contributions of references and resources from: the AGU Ethics Task Force, Billy Williams, Linda Gundersen, Mary Anne Holmes, Erika Marin-Spiotta, Mark Moldwin and other colleagues Rebecca Haacker, Carolyn Brinkworth, Dawn Sumner, Val Sloan. The responsibility for content on this page lies with the author