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The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Board of Directors approved a new position statement on the rights and responsibilities of scientists on 13 April. The position statement, entitled “The Responsibilities and Rights of Scientists,” emphasizes that the public-serving role of scientists charges them with certain ethical duties, and it also affords them the right to conduct science and collaborate freely.

The public-serving role of scientists charges them with certain ethical duties, and it also affords them the right to conduct science and collaborate freely.

“The scientific profession makes enormous contributions to human health, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability,” said AGU President Eric Davidson in a press release. “With that public-interest role comes great responsibility. This position statement acknowledges not only the importance of scientific excellence and integrity, but also the challenges of cultivating inclusivity, diversity, and safety throughout our profession. Finally, it articulates the essential rights of scientists to freely and openly exchange ideas in their pursuits and communications of knowledge.”

The concept for this statement was originally proposed by an AGU member through the position statement proposal process that is open to all AGU members. The AGU Position Statement Task Force then convened a panel of experts charged with developing the statement. A draft version of the statement written by the panel was open for AGU member comment for 1month, and member comments were reviewed before the statement was finalized. It complements a previous AGU position statement, “AGU Supports Free and Open Communication of Scientific Findings,” and it will be reinforced by a forthcoming update to AGU’s Ethics Policy.

AGU develops and maintains position statements to provide scientific expertise on significant policy issues related to the understanding and application of the Earth and space sciences. Members are encouraged to use AGU’s position statements to guide conversations with students, local communities, policy makers, and other members of the public. AGU’s position statements are maintained in the AGU Resource Center. They, along with AGU’s Advocacy Policy, are valuable resources for those looking to connect with members of the public on issues related to Earth and space sciences.

Michel Campillo, Institut des Sciences de la Terre
Jasmine Crumsey, Stanford University
Clinton Foster, Geoscience Australia
Linda Gundersen, U.S. Geological Survey
Rob Jackson, Stanford University
Susan Kieffer, University of Illinois
Scott Mandia, Suffolk County Community College (chair)
Jerry Miller, Science for Decisions
Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University
Karen Wayland, U.S. Department of Energy

—Elizabeth Landau (email:, AGU Public Affairs Manager


Landau, E. (2017), Scientists’ freedom to work entails responsibilities to society, Eos, 98, Published on 01 May 2017.

Text © 2017. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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