GeoEthics > GeoEthics and Profession > Professionalism

Geoethics and Professionalism: The Responsible Conduct of Scientists

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?

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.

Principles of Professionalism

Collegiality. Civility. Citizenship. Comity. Consensus. Whatever you call it, we all have to get along in the workplace and in life. In this module we look at the Responsible Conduct of Scientists: the professional behaviors, attitudes and interpersonal relations of scientists at work. Principles of professionalism have their foundations in concepts related to power, trust, respect, responsibility, freedom, and justice. These are topics that are typically not directly addressed in day-to-day workplace communications or in classrooms, but they are essential in providing a safe, inclusive and productive work environment. These principles ultimately impact the quality of our Science, and the well-being of scientists. This section provides background information on underlying principles that contribute to "workplace climate": trust, responsibility, respect, freedom and justice. Resources and readings from this section provide rich materials for group discussion and personal reflection.

Power in Social Structures

Any time there is an asymmetry of power in social structures, there is the potential for engaging unethical behaviors to influence or control the behaviors of others. Power may be either enabling or disabling, and must be applied judiciously. Darker aspects of the use of power over others include behaviors that employ coercion, control (physical and emotional), manipulation, intimidation, retribution, and devaluation or denigration of personal attributes. A Hobbesian (Leviathan, 1651, chapter 12) view of humanity is, "No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Power literacy can be taught. In your work/study environment, it is worth reflecting on where power resides, and how it is adjudicated. In your personal interactions with peers and subordinates, are you aware of your power over others, and is this power used to enhance and enable or erect barriers (whether deliberate or not) to the work of others?

  • An interesting TED talk by Eric Liu addresses Why Ordinary People Need to Understand Power–"we don't like to talk about power" as "we find it scary" and "somehow evil" with it having a "negative moral valence" and states that the pervasiveness of power illiteracy causes a concentration of knowledge, understanding and clout.
  • An example of power abused (more on sexual harassment in following sections): A Field Test for Identifying Appropriate Sexual Partners in Academia–posted by Jon F. Wilkins, February 16, 2016 on Lost in Transcription; contains some interesting reflections on the nature of power in hierarchical academic settings. "Here's the rule: When you have substantial power over someone, don't hit on them."


"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.
  • Paving the Way to More Reliable Research–Stephanie Wykstra explores issues related to lack of reproducible Science and possible remedies. From Inside Higher Education, July 10 , 2017.


The dignity of all people must be respected. Attacks on "political correctness" does not give license to denigrate, humiliate, marginalize and abuse. Ad hominem attacks on an individual cannot be tolerated. "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. Responsibility entails a personal duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform according to personal commitment or professional/social standards. A failure to act responsibly can lead to loss of personal or professional credibility, and possibly even legal actions. Eamples of 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


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 Government and Federal Government-sponsored research; (3) facilitate the free flow of scientific and technical information 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."


In the course of their work, geoscientists may run into issues that relate to justice. As stewards of Earth and its resources, the concepts of environmental justice, generational justice, and distributional justice may pertain.

Environmental Justice

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines Environmental Justice as "....the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental Justice is a complex issue involving politics, culture, race class, economics, and geoscience. For more information on Environmental Justice, see the InTeGrate module on Teaching Environmental Justice: Interdisciplinary Approaches.

Generational Justice

Actions taken today by society or individuals may have long-term consequences. What are our responsibilities to future generations? How do we best engage stewardship of the planet and wiseuse of limited or non-renewable resources? What are the dangers of possibly irreversible events?

Distributional Justice

The resources of the world are not uniformly distributed. How can the Earth's resources be equibably distributed among those living today? How does this impact the people of different nations and populations? How does this translate to policies involving developing countries? What is fair?


Geoethics is tightly connected to issues of sustainability. Grunwald (2015,The imperative of sustainable development: elements of an ethics of using geo-resources responsibly. In: Wyss, M.; Peppoloni, S. (Hrsg.): Geoethics. Ethical challenges and case studies in earth sciences. Amsterdam, Niederlande: Elsevier 2015, S. 26-35) has outlined sustainability principles relevant to geoscience:

  • Dangers and intolerable risks for human health have to be avoided.
  • Minimum basic services (nutrition, housing, clothing...) and protection against life risks (illness , disability) have to be secured for all members of society.
  • The usage rate of renewable resources must neither exceed their replenishment rate nor endanger the efficiency and reliability of the respective ecosystem.
  • The reserves of proven nonrenewable resources have to be preserved over time.
  • The release of substances must not exceed the absorption capacity of the ecosystem.
  • Technical risks with potentially disastrous impacts must be avoided.
  • Cultural and natural landscapes... have to be conserved.
  • All members of society must have the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.
  • All members of society have equal access to information, education, occupation, office....

(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."

Definition of Harassment from the September 2016 Sexual Harassment in the Sciences Workshop

"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.

Key Findings From the Executive Summary:

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

Recent news articles have revealed that sexual harassment is an endemic problem across the STEM disciplines.
  • 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.....)

    Support for Targets of Harassment

    • Know your IX–advice and resources on Supporting a Survivor the Basics; Supporting a Survivor of Dating Violence; Tips for Parents, Guardians and Family Members; Tips for Friends; Tips for Teachers and Professors.

    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

    Now is the time to start the conversation and How to stop the sexual harassment of women in science: reboot the system (posted by Dr Zuleyka Zevallos on The Conversation, January 28,2016)
    • Speak up!
    • Lead by example.
    • Make it easier to report abuse and harassment.
    • Make sure the policies work.
    • Make safety a day-to-day priority.
    • Strategic planning. "Given that surveys find sexual harassment is a common experience, a strategic vision for a healthy, successful science organization needs to formulate clear targets and key performance indicators that directly address the elimination of harassment, gender bias, racial discrimination, and other forms of abuse
    • Take a collective stand against harassment.

    Other Valuable resources include:


    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:

    • 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:


    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.

    Additional Resources


    Microaggressions are the casual degradation of any marginalized gruop (Wikipedia). Whether intentional or not, the impacts are real, cumulative, and can lead to ..."diminished self confidence and contributes to a poor self-image and potentially lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxety and trauma."

    Bias in Professional Relations

    In The Discourse on the Method (1637), Rene Descartes describes his rational approach to understanding the physical universe free from preconceived ideas: "First, never accept anything as true that I did not know evidently to be so; that is, carefully to avoid precipitous judgement and prejudice; and to include nothing more in my judgments that what presented itself to my mind with such clarity and distinctness that I would have no occasion to doubt it." Cartesian skepticism, free from precipitous judgment and prejudice is equally as important in establishing professional relations in the workplace, lab, field, and professional gatherings. It is important to recognize many types of interpersonal bias that may enter the workplace, as these may ultimately have negative impacts on the progress of Science, and of the scientists themselves.

    Strategies for reducing bias include:

    • Being cognizant of the effects and impacts of potential bias
    • Apply structure to reviews (e.g., job applications, performance reviews) so that the same criteria apply to all
    • Question yourself–your motives, perceptions, personal frame of reference.

    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.
    • Bias and the Application Process–Jeffrey W. Lockhart, April 29, 2016 from Inside Higher Education; Advice on how to avoid bias in reviewing applications, "The application review process can significantly disadvantage applicants from underrepresented groups."
    • 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

    Halo Effect

    The "Halo Effect" is a cognitive bias where the overall impressions of an individual affect how we perceive other attributes of their character. For example, someone who appears to be physically attractive might also be considered to be a good leader, smart, funny, well-liked, etc.

    • What is the Halo Effect by Kendra Cherry (April 7, 2017) describes the Halo Effect and why it matters in your professional life.
    • See also the definition of the Halo Effect from Psychology.

    Anchoring Bias

    "Psychological anchoring is a term used to describe the human tendency to rely too heavily on one trait (and often the first piece of information) when making decisions" (The Affects of Anchoring Bias on Human Behavior, Thought Hub May 23, 2016). Further examples of anchoring bias, and how to avoid this are found in Anchoring Effect: How the Mind is Biased by First Impressions from Psyblog. Experts tend to be less susceptible to anchoring bias, based on their more complete understanding of a topic or issue. Beware of first impressions!

    Confirmation Bias

    Confirmational bias is realized as people make decisions that confirm beliefs that are already developed. Thoughts and actions are commonly influenced by ingrained stereotypes. Aspects of confirmation bias include biased (or selective) searches for information, biased interpretation, and biased memories. A good introduction to confirmation bias can be found at What is Confirmation Bias, by Shahram Heshmat, Psychology Today posted on April 23, 2015.

    Imposter Effect

    Imposter syndrome " a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud" " (Wikipedia).

    • Feelng Like Imposters–Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, April 6, 2017, from Inside Higher Education; "New study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that the impostor phenomenon can affect various groups of minority students in different ways."

    Addressing Bias Issues

    • Proven Strategies for Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace–from CDO Insights (August 2008, Volume 2 Issue 5)

      Top 10 Ways to Combat Hidden Bias
      1. Recognize that as human beings, our brains make mistakes without us even knowing it. The new science of "unconscious bias" applies to how e perceive other people. We're all biased and becoming aware of of own biases will help us mitigate them in the workplace.
      2. Reframe the conversation to focus on fair treatment and respect, and away from discrimination and "protected classes". Review every aspect of the employment life cycle for hidden bias – screening resumes, interviews, onboarding, assignment process, mentoring programs, performance evaluation, identifying high performers, promotion and termination.
      3. Ensure that anonymous employee surveys are conducted company-wide to first understand what specific issues of hidden bias and unfairness might exist at your workplace. Each department or location may have different issues.
      4. Conduct anonymous surveys with former employees to understand what were the issues they faced, what steps could be taken for the to consider coming back, whether they encourage or discourage prospective employees from applying for positions at your company and whether they encourage or discourage prospective customers/clients from using your company's products or services.
      5. Offer customized training based upon survey results of current and former employees that includes examples of hidden bias, forms of unfairness that are hurtful and demotivating, and positive methods to discuss these issues.
      6. Offer an anonymous, third-party complaint channel such as an ombudsperson; since most of the behaviors that employees perceive as unfair are not covered by current laws – e.g. bullying, very subtle bias –existing formal complaint channels simply don't work.
      7. Initiate a resume study within your industry, company and/or department to see whether resumes with roughly equivalent education and experience are weighted equally, when the names are obviously gender or race or culturally distinct.
      8. Launch a resume study within your company and/or department to reassign points based on earned accomplishments vs. accidents of birth – e.g. take points off for someone who had an unpaid internship, add points for someone who put him/herself through college.
      9. Support projects that encourage positive images of persons of color, GLBT and women. Distribute stories and pictures widely that portray tereotype-busting images – posters, newsletters, annual reports, speaker series, podcasts. Many studies show that the mere positive image of specific groups of people can combat our hidden bias.
      10. Identify, support and collaborate with effective programs that increase diversity in the pipeline. Reward employees who volunteer with these groups, create internships and other bridges, and celebrate the stories of those who successfully overcome obstacles.
    • Strategies to Address Unconscious Bias–compiled by the University of California San Francisco Office of Diversity and Outreach

    Empowering Bystanders

    Silence is complicity. Inaction is not an option. Bystanders can make a difference–to help prevent, to intervene to protect, and to report for mitigation– if they:

    Appropriate Behavior at Meetings

    Building an Inclusive and Diverse Department/Program/Profession

    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.

    • Athena Swan program–from the UK's Equality Challenge Unit for advancing equality and diversity in colleges and universities; includes a wealth of resources on promoting good relations, and tackling sexual harassment and violence.
    • Center for Changing Our Campus Culture–includes extensive resources on "...the latest research, sample campus policies, protocols, best practices and information on how to access training opportunities and technical assistance."
    • The CSWA Survey of Workplace Climate (AAS Committee on Status of Women in Astronomy; Christina Richey, Kathryn Clancy, Katharine Lee, and Erica Rodgers) reveals systemic issues related to harassment of many types.
    • Climate Control - Gender and Racial Bias in Engineering
    • Dealing With Dysfunction–A Book for University Leaders–Richard Castillo (2017); "...provides a real-life view of a college department gone awry. A complete lack of trust exists between faculty, department chairs past and present; and particularly within the faculty itself. Name calling, sabotage, and an unwillingness to even be in the same room with department colleagues to discuss matters involving student and program concerns have become the norm." Review from Inside Higher Education


    Can't we all just get along?

    • Personal and Workgroup Incivility: Impact on Work and Health Outcomes–Sandy Lim, ilia M. Cortina, Vicki J. Magley, Jour. of Applied Psychology, 2008, #1, p. 95-107; "...finding that satisfaction with work and supervisors, as well as mental health, partially mediated effects of personal incivility on turnover intentions and physical health; this process did not vary by gender....showing negative effects of workgroup incivility that emerged over and above the impact of personal incivility".
    • Incivility in the Workplace: Incidence and Impact–Lilia M. Cortina, Vicki J. Magley, Jill H. Williams an Regina D. Langhout, Jour. of Occupational Health Psychology, 2001, vol 6 #1, 64-80; "...This study extends the literature on interpersonal mistreatment in the workplace y examining the incidence, targets, instigators, and impacts of incivility (e.g., disrespect, condescension, degradation)...negative effects on job satisfaction, job withdrawal, and career salience. Uncivil workplace experiences were also associated with greater psychological distress."
    • Zweber, Z.M., Henning, R.A., & Magley, V.J. (2016). A practical scale for multi-faceted organizational health climate assessment. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 21, 250-259.
    • Job Stress and Incivility What Role Does Psychological Capital Play?–Sara J. Roberts, Lisa L. Shcerer, Casey J. Bowyer, (2011), Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, Vol 18, Issue 4, pp. 449 - 458
    • Resources for a Respectful Workplace- University of Connecticut
    • Civility Web Site–developed by Dr. P.M. Forni, Johns Hopkins University
    • 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).

    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


    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.

    Hiring a Diverse Faculty

    Practical advice for departments to hire a diverse faculty can be found at: Resources and Strategies for Recruiting a Diverse Faculty–from the NAGT Building Strong Departments program.

    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

    Professional Relations Built on Trust

    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:

    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
    • Obtaining Outstanding Recommendations–Shannan Carigo-Snell, December 2, 2016 from Inside Higher Education; advice to students (especially marginalized students) regarding ways to request letters of recommendation.
    • 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.

    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

    Professionalism in the Geosciences in Service to Society

    The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) Task Group on Global Geoscience Professionalism states:

    "Geoscientists in all areas of the geoscience profession are called upon to provide expert services and opinions. These services and opinions are relied upon by employers and the public to make key decisions; decisions which affect business, the general public good, and the environment. It is essential that those geoscientists providing the services and opinions are providing them at a professional level; incorporating:

    • Sound geoscience knowledge and application of theory;
    • Exceptional ethics; and
    • good judgement; providing services and opinions only in the areas of geoscience in which they are competent."

    The Cape Town Statement on Geoethics further explicates the expectations for professional behavior of geoscientists.

    Contractor/Client Relations

    Professionalism in relations between contractors and clients may be dictated to some extent by licensure and certification requirements, although these requirements may vary according to national or state jurisdictions. Practicioners need to be aware of issues related to

    • Competence
    • Confidentiality
    • Negligence
    • Accurate representation of abilities,knowledge and expertise, and
    • Reporting standards regarding uncertainty.

    Geoscience Canada has produced Competency Profile for Professional Geoscieintists at Entry to Practice and defines competence as "...the ability to perform a practice task with a specified level of proficiency." In the context of this module, competencies defined for geoscientists related to professionalism and ethics include: 1.6 Professionalism

    • 1.6.1 Comply with relevant legislation, regulations and statutory reporting requirements.
    • 1.6.2 Practice within the bounds of one's expertise and limitations.
    • 1.6.3 Maintain awareness of best practices and guidelines.
    • 1.6.4 Seek advice or assistance where necessary.
    • 1.6.5 Act with flexibility in dealing with new and changing situations.
    • 1.6.6 Treat others with respect and fairness.
    • 1.6.7 Apply basic conflict resolution strategies.
    • 1.6.8 Share geoscience information to assist the learning of others.
    • 1.6.9 Work in a multidisciplinary team environment.
    • 1.6.10 Represent the profession in a responsible manner.
    • 1.6.11 Recognize the impact of geoscience practice on clients, society and the natural environment.

    1.8 Ethics

    • 1.8.1 Comply with relevant codes of ethics.
    • 1.8.2 Recognize obligations and responsibilities to society, to clients and to employers.
    • 1.8.3 Practice in a manner that is non-prejudicial.
    • 1.8.4 Respect confidentiality of information.
    • 1.8.5 Recognize potential, perceived and real conflicts of interest.
    • 1.8.6 Act with concern for the natural environment.
    • 1.8.7 Identify and address health and safety concerns encountered in practice.
    • 1.8.8 Accept accountability for decisions and actions.

    Standards: Chain of Evidence, QA/QC

    Serving as an Expert Witness

    Geoscientists may be called upon to serve as expert witnesses in civil or criminal cases. The role of the expert witness is to provide state-of-the-art information pertaining to the issue, not to be an advocate for one side or the other. Guidelines of how to prepare to be an expert witness were presented by Dr. Ruth Allington at the 35th IGC meeting in Cape Town South Africa (The roles and responsibilities of geoscientists providing expertise in civil and criminal proceedings– a practical guide to the requirements and avoiding the pitfalls.). AAAS Court Appointed Scientific Experts (CASE) has provided guidelines for scientific testimony in the legal system. Download the Handbook for Experts, vol 3Some additional considerations regarding the role of expert witness include:

    • The witness is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education;
    • Such knowledge will assist the court or jury to understand the evidence and decide disputed facts. That is, the knowledge is relevant to the matter under dispute.
    • Serves as trial witness, advisor to court
    • Mediates settlement discussions
    • Facilitates comprehension of the evidence
    • Avoid COI; Impeachment of evidence (credibility).


    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 web page 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.