Codes of Conduct

What is a Code of Conduct?

Codes of conduct are a set of guidelines adopted by an organization to address what behaviors are expected and appropriate. All universities should have personnel codes of conduct. Have you read your institution's code of conduct?

Historically, scientific societies' codes of conduct most likely addressed traditional definitions of research ethics, including plagiarism, data fabrication, and authorship disputes, and may have had an events' code of conduct to ensure a safe and respectful environment at meetings and conferences.

We recently surveyed websites of member societies of the American Geosciences Institute in September 2016 prior to a National Science Foundation workshop to address shortcomings in how the scientific community was responding to the problem of sexual harassment. At the time, only two of 50 AGI member society codes specifically addressed sexual harassment; a year and a half later, that number increased to eight. The number of AGI member societies with a code of conduct accessible on their website also increased post-workshop. While this response shows a clear improvement, too few codes of conduct include mechanisms for their enforcement and protection for those who report.

Read more: Schneider, B., M.A. Holmes and E. Marin-Spiotta. 2018. Sexual harassment in the Sciences: Response by Professional Societies AGI Currents # 125.

What makes for an effective code of conduct?

An effective code of conduct:

  • Identifies and defines appropriate and inappropriate behaviors
  • Goes beyond ethical treatment of data to include the treatment of people
  • Clearly specifies reporting and investigative procedures
  • Outlines disciplinary action for conduct violations
  • Includes protection against retaliation
  • Has built in mechanism for continued re-evaluation of its effectiveness and for its revision

For example, in 2017 the American Geophysical Union (AGU) adopted a new code of conduct that defined harassment, bullying, and discrimination as research misconduct; expanding it to include a set of principles and practices for professional behavior that governs all AGU members and participants in all AGU program activities, including Honors and Awards, and AGU governance.

Read AGU's Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics policy

Sample Codes of Conduct

For Academic Departments

Meetings and Events

Professional Societies

Field Research, Stations and Courses

See also Dave Mogk's compiled list of professional societies' mission statements & codes of ethics.

How to Write a Code of Conduct

Writing a code of conduct from scratch can appear to be a daunting task and, therefore, is much easier to borrow language already present at a university departments and field sites as well as professional societies. The University of Alaska Fairbanks - Toolik Field Station's Sexual Misconduct Policy developed by Brie Van Dam provides an excellent example.

The blanks can be filled with the name of your university department, workplace, and/or field site:

Field Station/University Department/Workplace Sexual Misconduct Policy

Everyone at ___ Field Station/University/___ department has the right to be free from discrimination, unlawful harassment, sexual misconduct, and violence. Title IX is a federal law that gives everyone the right to equal access to education and employment in the absence of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. During your stay/employment at ____ you are expected to follow the law, as well as specific guidelines laid out in ___ policies and the Code of Conduct. Residents/employees are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of others. Violations will result in serious sanctions.

Unacceptable Behaviors:

The following behaviors are considered violations of the ___ Code of Conduct:

Sexual Harassment​ includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and offensive comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, physical appearance, race/ethnicity and body size.
Sexual Misconduct​ includes rape, sexual assault, inappropriate touching, sexual battery, sexual exploitation, coercion, and other forms of non-consensual sexual activity.
Stalking​ is repeatedly following, harassing, threatening, or intimidating including by telephone, mail, electronic communication, or social media.
Patterns​ of inappropriate social contact, such as requesting/assuming inappropriate levels of intimacy with others.
Dating and Domestic Violence​ includes emotional, verbal, and economic abuse with or without the presence of physical abuse.
Retaliation ​is adverse employment, academic or other actions against anyone reporting a violation of this policy (including reporting to any ___ staff, management team member, police, or Title IX office).
Title IX Violation​ is the collective term used for incidents involving discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, and/or retaliation.
Power-based personal violence​ occurs when an individual asserts power, control, or intimidation in order to harm another. This includes relationship/partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Deliberately mis-characterizing a person's gender identity, including through the use of a name or pronoun that the person has rejected.
Gratuitous or off-topic sexual images or behavior in spaces where they're not appropriate at the field station.
Violating the Ask Once Policy (defined below)

Ask Once​ Policy​ - it is generally appropriate to ask someone out once, but no more than once. ___ follows Ask Once​ as a behavioral guideline. The Ask Once​ guideline means that you can ask someone out once, and if they do not say yes, you cannot ask them out again. Asking out includes hitting on, expressing interest, and making advances. If someone brushes off the advance, does not reciprocate in a positive way, or turns down the advance in any way, it must still be considered a "no". This guideline is intended to inform the behavior of someone interested in another resident of ___, give people a simple way to judge when they are being harassed, and give ___ management a tool in which to evaluate a resident's behavior.

Reporting Options:

Individuals at ___ have multiple reporting avenues. No matter your home institution or affiliation, you can report an incident that you experienced, observed, or were told about, in the following ways (contact information listed under Important Contacts​ below):

Disclosure to the on-site Camp Manager
Disclosure to any member of the Management Team
Disclosure to any staff member
Disclosure to the Scientific Liaison
Disclosure to the ___ Title IX Office
Disclosure to law enforcement (911)
Confidential reporting and support resources are listed under Important Contacts​ below

Residents will not be penalized for violations of the ___ alcohol or drug policy that are disclosed as part of a sexual misconduct report.

What Happens After a Report is Made:

Reporting to any of the listed options above will result in disclosure to the ___ Management Team and the ___ Title IX office, who will work together alongside the individual who was harmed to determine a course of action. It is important to note that all ___ staff and ___ employees are "responsible employees." This means they are required to report anything they experience, see, or hear about to ___'s Title IX office. The next step in the ___ Title IX office process is that an investigator from their office will conduct outreach to the target of the inappropriate behavior, which includes providing resources for support. They will then ask this individual if they want the office to move forward with an investigation. The target is in control of the process at this point. If they do not want an investigation to move forward, it will not. The only way that an investigation will move forward without the support of the targeted individual is if:

1) The incident was part of a larger pattern at ___ (one example is if multiple individuals reported the same person for comments that constituted sexual harassment or discrimination);
2) The accused individual has a history of violence, sexual violence, arrest, or the incident was committed by multiple perpetrators;
3) The incident was perpetrated with a weapon, included physical violence (such as hitting, restraint, pushing, or kicking), or the threat of violence;
4) The affected individual is a minor;

In the event of an investigation, if the individual causing harm is from an institution other than ___, the ___ Title IX office will coordinate with the Title IX office at the individual's home institution. ___ is a grantee institution of the National Science Foundation (NSF). As such, information about any findings of sexual or other type of harassment and actions taken by ___ will be provided to the NSF. See NSF Important Notice No. 144 ( for additional information.

The target will always be included and informed of the results of their disclosure, any action that is taken, and the results of an investigation.

Potential Actions:

___ management has the ability to take immediate and long-term actions to ensure the safety of ___ residents. Immediate action could include changes in housing or lab assignments and other options up to removal from camp of any staff member, contractor, member of the scientific community, or other resident. Long-term actions occur once an investigation is completed. Dependent on the finding, ___ management may choose to change the immediate action that was taken, and/or implement longer term actions and sanctions, up to trespass from ___. After an incident is brought to our attention, ___ management will include the target in their discussion about how to make the environment safe again. Multiple options are available. For example, if the target needs support in talking with someone about inappropriate behaviors, ___ management will either directly mediate, or find resources to support the mediation of, the conversation. If the target says they do not feel safe being at ___ with another person, then ___ management will work with the target to find an acceptable arrangement (such as housing or laboratory changes, mediation, up to removal from the station). It is important to the personal and professional growth of all ___ residents that you feel safe at the field station. If you do not feel safe and need an accommodation, please let us know. There are many options.

What to Do if Someone Discloses to You (and you are not a ___-affiliated mandatory reporter - ___ staff receive specific training)

If a friend discloses that they have been targeted by sexual misconduct, there are a number of ways in which you can support them:

  • Tell them that you believe them, that you support them, that it is not their fault, that no one deserves to be targeted by such behavior.
  • Provide them with the list of contact information and resources included in this document.
  • Ask if they want your help in finding out what their options are.
  • Ask what else you can do to help.
  • Respect their decision not to talk with you if they don't want to.

It is common for survivors of sexual assault not to initially name what happened to them as rape or abuse although they may recognize harmful behavior. Over time, as they feel safer, they may try to understand the experience through talking about it. The support of a friend can be extremely beneficial in the healing process. Remember that the well-being of the person who was harmed must be prioritized. Reporting an incident to police or others without the support or knowledge of the person who was harmed could be more traumatic than helpful. If you are ___ staff or faculty, you are a "responsible employee" and must report to the ___ Title IX office. As described above, this means that the office will conduct outreach to the person harmed, and then it is still their decision whether to have an investigation move forward, or not. The individual who was harmed has the right to make the decision to have an investigation move forward or not.

What to Do if You Have Been Sexually Assaulted, or Targeted by Sexual Misconduct:

We support you. You have the right to:

  • Talk to anyone about your experience;
  • To not talk to anyone about your experience (silence can make the healing process more difficult, and we encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend or one of the resources listed below);
  • Change your mind about talking to anyone about your experience at any time;
  • Report to the ___ Camp Manager, the police, or any of the other reporting options listed above;
  • Bring someone with you to provide support during reporting or any resulting discussions;
  • To seek reasonable accommodations to minimize the impact of the experience on the success of your work at ___;
  • To seek medical assistance, including medical care and a medical forensic exam.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list.

What to Do if You See Something Inappropriate:

The most effective way we can prevent harm to any member of our community is by looking out for each other. All ___ community members are expected to share in the responsibility of creating a safe environment and to act when they witness behavior that could be harmful to others. In any potentially harmful situation there are often other individuals along the way who recognize there is a problem and have the ability to step in and help the targeted individual. Bystander intervention training programs provide tools to help bystanders act effectively in the way that works best for them. Active bystanders​ are individuals who take the responsibility to act when they see something or hear something that makes them uncomfortable. Several ___ staff members are certified Green Dot trainers (Green Dot is one type of bystander intervention training). We will be hosting trainings every summer and we welcome you to attend, but you do not need training in order to be an active bystander.

Here are some suggestions to take an active role in the safety of our community:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and social situations.
  • If a situation makes you or others uncomfortable, or it looks like someone is being targeted, recognize that this is a problem and that you can be part of the solution to help.
  • Take action to diffuse the situation while staying safe; some ideas include checking in with the targeted individual, telling the TFS Camp Manager or Science Liaison what is happening, recruiting help from friends, diffusing the situation by distracting those involved (look at that neat thing over there!). If you'd like other specific suggestions, contact ___.
  • If you are uncertain if there is a problem, check in with the individuals involved to see if they are okay or need help.
  • Look out for your friends and labmates, but never put yourself at risk
Contact Information:

On-site Camp Manager

Principle Investigator/Manager/Department Head

Title IX Office

Human Resources Director

Hotlines/National Resources

Resources used in the creation of this policy:

Development of this policy was led by former TFS staff member Brie Van Dam ( Some sections of this policy were drawn from work by Aline Garcia Rubio at the Catlin Gabel School, Portland, OR. Additional resources in the development of this policy include:

Lily Cohen,

Kathryn Clancy,

The Penn State University Field experience policy,

The ADA Initiative,

The Django Community Code of Conduct,

UAF Title IX Office,