Ethics Updates

Update on GSA’s Ethics & Compliance Program [13 May 2019]

In September 2018, the Geological Society of America (GSA) announced the appointment of Nan Stout as GSA’s first Ethics & Compliance Officer.  Ms. Stout was hired to build an ethics program for GSA and to implement recommendations made earlier in the year by the Society’s Ad Hoc Ethics Committee. 

On May 4, 2019, Ms. Stout presented a comprehensive report to the GSA Council, which approved several new and updated ethics policies and procedures.  We are pleased to share this update on the main steps we are taking to strengthen and sustain a culture of ethical, civil behavior across the Society and the broader geoscience community. 

  1. New Enforceable Code of Ethics. In the coming months, GSA will replace its aspirational Code of Conduct – adopted in the 1970s – with a new enforceable Code of Ethics.  GSA’s new Code of Ethics will describe the professional ethical standards of conduct we expect of our members together with examples of prohibited behavior that may result in a member’s discipline, suspension, or termination from the Society.  Bylaw changes also will go into effect to make it clear that compliance with the Code of Ethics is a condition of membership.

    A small committee has begun drafting the new Code of Ethics based on an outline approved by the GSA Council.  Once the committee has completed an initial draft, members will be invited to review and submit comments on the new Code of Ethics before it is finalized.  GSA’s goal is to publish the new Code of Ethics shortly after the 2019 Annual GSA Meeting in Phoenix.

  2. New Policy & Procedures for Handling Potential Ethics Violations. The GSA Council approved a new complaint-handling policy.  This policy sets forth the rules GSA will follow to process possible violations of the GSA’s Code of Ethics and Bylaws when an Ethics Complaint Form is submitted to GSA.   The new policy is designed to protect the Society’s interests, while being fair to members in a way that gives them reasonable due process and an opportunity to be heard.

    The new Policy & Procedures for Handling Potential Ethics Violations takes effect immediately.  The policy, together with the Ethics Complaint Form, can be accessed by clicking on the title of each document.

  3. Enhanced Respectful, Inclusive Scientific Events (RISE) and Events Code of Conduct. In 2016, GSA introduced RISE and the Events Code of Conduct to send a clear message that GSA is committed to providing a professional environment at all of our events, welcoming people from diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging points of view.  The GSA Council approved two changes to strengthen the Events Code of Conduct.  One focuses on the expectation for individuals who choose to drink or use legal intoxicants at GSA events to act professionally.  The other clarifies that individuals presenting at GSA events now have the responsibility to decide whether to permit photographs of their slides and/or posters.  In addition to these changes, GSA is developing new resources to strengthen RISE so we will continue to provide safe, welcoming events.

  4. Honors & Awards Revocation Policy. The GSA Council agreed to establish an Honors & Awards Revocation Policy to define how potential ethical violations will affect an individual’s eligibility to win and/or keep a GSA honor or award.   Stout is researching best practices and will submit a draft policy to the GSA Council in 2020.

In addition to these member-facing changes, GSA is making governance changes to ensure that the GSA Council continues to provide appropriate oversight over ethics activities.  The Society also is taking a leadership role to promote ethical and professional conduct more broadly across the sciences. GSA is an inaugural member and part of the Leadership Council of the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM, a collective effort of more than 100 scientific and medical societies to promote excellence in STEMM fields.  GSA is also a partner in AGU’s Ethics and Equity Center, which will provide resources on leading practices and tools to help achieve positive work environments and inclusive excellence. 

If you have questions or comments on GSA’s ethics program, feel free to send Ms. Stout an email at