Ethics Updates

Ethics & Compliance Update [17 July 2020]

Almost 2 years have passed since GSA hired an Ethics & Compliance Officer to oversee GSA’s ethics programs and projects. We created this position because ethics is fundamental in the work we do as geoscientists, and our Society is committed to playing a leadership role in this important area.

Ethics Program Framework

GSA has implemented several policies, procedures, and programs to guide GSA members and event participants in fostering a culture of integrity, respect, and scientific excellence. A few examples include:

  • Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct (“Code of Ethics”). Sets forth aspirational and mandatory conduct standards for GSA members’ professional activities.
  • Ethics Disclosures. Requires individuals selected for honors, awards, and leadership roles to certify their compliance with GSA’s ethical standards.
  • Events Code of Conduct. Establishes a conduct standard for all individuals who participate in GSA meetings, field trips, and other GSA-sponsored events.
  • Respectful, Inclusive, Scientific Events (RISE) and Complaint-Handling Procedures. Encourages individuals to report conduct concerns so that GSA may respond appropriately and fairly.

Ethics Cases

GSA follows established procedures to ensure that all complaints submitted under the Code of Ethics and Events Code of Conduct are promptly addressed and managed properly. We also provide the GSA Council – the Society’s governing body – with bi-annual summaries of such cases. This oversight prevents cases from being “swept under the rug,” identifies patterns of conduct that GSA can address through policy changes and outreach, and enables GSA to identify ways to continuously improve our ethics program.

In 2019, GSA received a total of eleven reports, including three complaints about behavior at GSA-sponsored events, one publishing-related complaint, and seven complaints arising under GSA’s Code of Ethics. As is our practice, GSA investigated each of these cases. While the complaints involving GSA events and publishing did not result in adverse findings, in April 2020, the GSA Council determined that two GSA members violated our Code of Ethics or bylaws and should be disciplined. Of the five remaining Code of Ethics cases, two were closed without findings and three are pending.

For privacy and confidentiality reasons, GSA does not release details about specific ethics cases. However, when the GSA Council determines that a member has violated the Code of Ethics, it may direct GSA’s Executive Director to carry out whatever disciplinary action it deems appropriate. A non-exhaustive list of examples includes restricting a member’s attendance at GSA events, revoking honors and awards, and terminating membership.

Please refer to GSA’s Ethics Homepage for additional details about our ethics program.

This update was originally published in the July 2020 issue of GSA Today, page 31.