Signpost: respect, ethics, integrity, honesty

When the American Geophysical Union (AGU) charged a panel last June with reviewing the organization’s ethics policy and practices, then AGU President Margaret Leinen asked the team to focus on harassment and work climate issues in the Earth and space sciences. Now AGU’s Task Force on Scientific Ethics has completed its charge and is seeking feedback from AGU members on updates it is recommending to AGU’s Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics Policy.

The current policy is silent on the important issue of harassment and other types of negative behavior such as discrimination and bullying. With the updates, AGU would extend the ethics policy to members in general, rather than only to volunteers and to participants during meetings, as it currently applies.

“AGU believes the Earth and space science community should be a safe and welcoming environment for individuals of all backgrounds.”

“Member feedback during AGU town halls made it clear that we needed to update our ethics policy so that it better fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion,” said Eric Davidson, who became AGU President in January. “AGU believes the Earth and space science community should be a safe and welcoming environment for individuals of all backgrounds. We’re now taking a strong stance by addressing this topic of harassment directly in the AGU Ethics policy.”

Recommendations from the task force, which is chaired by past AGU President Michael McPhaden, include language in AGU’s code of conduct to explicitly define and address harassment. The new language defines harassment as a scientific misconduct issue.

The update expands the ethics policy’s coverage to include code-of-conduct implications for all AGU programs, including Honors and Awards as well as Governance. In addition, it identifies conditions under which the policy’s provisions may apply to actions that occur outside of AGU programs. It also outlines clear procedures for reporting and follow-up on ethics issues. In proposing revisions, the task force considered both the leading practices of other professional and scholarly societies and the needs of AGU members.

AGU invites all members to review the draft revised policy and to provide comments here through 28 April. The task force anticipates completing its work and submitting its final recommendations for updates to the ethics policy for approval by September.

—Billy M. Williams (email:, Science Director, AGU


Williams, B. M. (2017), Updated AGU ethics policy available for member comment, Eos, 98, Published on 24 March 2017.

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