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.
Check out our tips for effective codes of conduct for field research and training environments.
Sample Codes of Conduct
For Academic Departments
- Baylor University Department of Geosciences
- KU Center for STEM Learning
- Middle State Tennessee University Department of Geosciences (PDF)
- UT Austin Jackson School of Geosciences
Meetings and Events
- American Geophysical Union
- Geological Society of America
- American Society for Limnology & Oceanography
- Evolution Meetings, including a comprehensive guide of the process for reporting.
- American Geophysical Union (PDF)
- American Astronomical Society
- American Sociological Association. Proposed revisions in 2017 for consideration by membership in 2018
Field Research, Stations and Courses
- University of Alaska Fairbanks Toolik Field Station Sexual Misconduct Policy (PDF)
- Iowa State University & University of Nebraska-Lincoln Field Camp Agreement (PDF)
- University of Minnesota Wasatch-Unita Summer Field Camp Code of Conduct
- University of Missouri Geology Field Camp Codes of Conduct
- Whitman College Geology Department Field Trip Code of Conduct (PDF)
- Indiana University Geologic Field Station Code of Conduct (PDF)
- Electromagnetic Field Camp Code of Conduct
- Colorado School of Mines Field Camp Code of Conduct (PDF)
- NSF Office of Polar Programs US Antarctic Program 2016 (PDF)
- WE-CAN Aircraft Field Campaign (PDF)
- University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Reporting Procedures and Flowchart
- Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve Code of Conduct (Acrobat (PDF) 52kB Nov16 20)
Read more about field codes of conduct.
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: