1.1 Vision and Purpose
The Geological Society of America Inc. (“GSA” or the “Society”) promotes the geosciences in many ways,
from organizing scientific meetings to publishing scientific journals and books and bestowing medals and
GSA’s vision is to be the premier geological society supporting the global community in scientific
communication, and the application of geoscience knowledge. To achieve this vision, it is imperative that
GSA Members, adhere to the highest ethical standards in all of our professional activities.
The purpose of the Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct (the “Code”) is to foster a culture of integrity
excellence through our work as a Society and in furtherance of GSA’s tax-exempt charitable, educational, and
In adopting the Code, GSA also underscores the importance of making ethical decisions in service to the
humankind, and in stewardship of Earth. GSA is a signatory to the American Geosciences Institute (“AGI”) Guidelines for Ethical Professional Conduct (the
“Guidelines”). GSA encourages all GSA Members to apply the spirit of the Guidelines in carrying
our professional activities as geoscientists and members of the professional and scientific community.
1.2 Persons to Whom the Code Applies
This Code applies to GSA Members as defined in the GSA Amended and Restated Bylaws as currently in effect and
may be amended in the future (the “Bylaws”). GSA Members include Honorary Fellows, Fellows, Members, or
Affiliates (each a “Member” and collectively, the “Members”). Pursuant to the Bylaws, all Members must
with this Code as a condition of GSA Membership.
1.3 Relationship between the Code and Other GSA Policies
As the umbrella policy for ethics at GSA, this Code is supported by detailed policies referred to below. To
access these policies, click on the hyperlinks or go to GSA’s website, navigate to the “About” tab, and then
click on “Ethics.”
Each of the above policies may apply to individuals in different roles. For example, some policies apply to
employees, non-GSA Members, and/or elected GSA leaders. Check each policy to see which groups they cover.
1.4 Policies Related to GSA Events and Publications
Two of GSA’s primary activities include organizing scientific meetings and conferences and publishing
journals and books. Anyone who participates in these activities—whether they are Members or non-members—must
adhere to the policies and guidelines GSA has established to ensure professionalism, respect, and fairness
carrying out these activities. For scientific meetings and events, please refer to GSA’s Events Code of
Conduct. For GSA books and journals, please refer to GSA’s Ethical
Guidelines for Publication.
1.5 Aspirational and Mandatory Conduct—Consequences of Non-Compliance
Some sections of this Code include both aspirational and mandatory standards of conduct that guide and govern
behavior whether we are in academic settings, laboratories, field or research sites, governmental labs and
institutions, industry facilities, meetings, and/or any other professional settings. The aspirational
embody GSA’s values. Though generally not enforceable, these aspirational standards emphasize the conduct we
strive to uphold as Members.
The mandatory standards are firm requirements. Any Member found to have violated the mandatory standards will
in violation of this Code and may be subject to disciplinary or remedial action pursuant to Section 6 below
accordance with GSA’s Bylaws and GSA’s Complaint-Handling Policy - Code of Ethics.
In addition to the aspirational and mandatory standards included in this Code, we all have a duty to comply
the law and avoid any behavior that would be prejudicial to the Society’s interests. We also have a
responsibility to adhere to all policies, rules, and permitting requirements that apply to our professional
It is critical to note that while GSA may describe a particular standard as “aspirational,” a Member may be
required to comply with such standard by a third party, such as a Member’s employer, university, or other
1.6 Filing Complaints/Contacting GSA about Ethics Matters
If you wish to file a complaint, please refer to GSA’s Complaint-Handling Policy - Code of Ethics for
information on the
necessary procedures. Questions about ethics matters also may be directed to GSA via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A glossary is included in Appendix A at the end of the
Code. For convenience, the terms included in the glossary are highlighted throughout this document in bold
2. Taking Responsibility: Mandatory GSA Member Responsibilities
GSA provides professional growth opportunities for earth scientists at all levels of expertise and from all
sectors. As Members, we each have a responsibility to act with professionalism and integrity—regardless of
career level or job title. This means creating an organization and culture of inclusivity, equity, safety,
respect where all Members have an equal opportunity to participate, contribute, be appropriately credited,
succeed in their careers. The following mandatory standards apply to all of us:
- We will comply with the Code and related policies;
- We will cooperate to the best of our ability if asked to take part in an investigation of an
allegation of a Code violation; and
- We will not represent ourselves as a spokesperson for the Society without express authorization by
the President and Executive Director of GSA.
3. Promoting a Culture of Scientific and Research Integrity
GSA is committed to promoting a culture of scientific and research integrity across the geosciences.
3.1 Aspirational Standards
- We will maintain the highest standards of intellectual and personal honesty. We will avoid bias in
the products of our work;
- We will take responsibility for our actions and contributions in all phases of our research. We will
accepted practices and, to the extent possible, we will conduct research that is replicable and
reproducible; produce research records that are clear, transparent, and verifiable; distinguish
from interpretations; and report uncertainties in research results in the context of complex natural
systems. We will responsibly conduct sampling activities in our research to preserve Earth’s geoheritage
- We will give full and proper credit to the creativity, ideas, contributions, and work performed by
colleagues, subordinates, and students. We will cooperate with other researchers whenever possible to
rapid interchange and dissemination of knowledge in the geosciences;
- We will contribute to training and mentoring future geoscientists as opportunities permit to sustain the
future of the geoscience profession;
- We will seek to demonstrate the relevance and importance of the geosciences to the general public and to
future generations. We will strive to communicate our knowledge about Earth to protect the environment
provide appropriate stewardship of natural resources. To the extent we communicate with the public on
topics, we will do so with care and precision; and
- We will protect confidential and proprietary data entrusted to us in our professional capacity.
3.2 Mandatory Standards
- We will take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure safety in the laboratory, field, and other
professional settings. We will notify the appropriate authorities of any violations or incidents that
to create a threat to public health and safety.
4. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Fairness, and Inclusivity
GSA is committed to promoting a culture of respect, fairness, and inclusivity across the geosciences in
furtherance of its purposes to advance the geosciences. GSA does not tolerate discrimination or harassment
Characteristics, which include race, ethnicity, color, national origin, ancestry, sex,
creed, religion, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability,
veteran status, marital status, medical condition, pregnancy, education, class, political affiliation,
status. All people deserve to work in a safe, supportive, respectful, inclusive, and welcoming environment
encourages diverse points of view and backgrounds in order to engage in open and honest communication.
4.1 Aspirational Standards
- We listen to others’ points of view, seek to understand them, and conduct ourselves in a professional
even when it is not reciprocated;
- We exemplify high standards in science, teaching, management, and interactions with others, particularly
when we are in a position of power or privilege, serving in roles that may include professors, research
supervisors, managers in government or industry labs or facilities, or any other senior geoscientist
- We treat students and subordinates respectfully, without exploitation, and provide a safe, supportive
environment to encourage learning and professional development;
- We strive to promote diversity among conveners and presenters when organizing panels, keynotes, and
invitational sessions; and
- If we choose to drink alcohol or use other legal intoxicants in any professional settings, we will do so
responsibly without compromising our ability to act professionally.
4.2 Mandatory Standards
- We use legitimate, unbiased criteria when making decisions and taking actions that affect the work,
educational, and/or professional opportunities of students, colleagues, and other professional contacts;
- We do not discriminate
harass, bully, or engage in retaliation against others in our professional
5. Avoiding Conflicts of Interest
As Members, we may be involved in various professional activities on behalf of the Society that could give
to real or perceived conflicts of interest; i.e., situations where our personal interests or relationships
interfere with our ability to make objective decisions on GSA’s behalf. Examples include selecting
for leadership or committee roles; evaluating and approving Members for honors and awards; and/or reviewing
proposals, grant applications, or journal articles.
5.1 Aspirational Standards
- We demonstrate transparency in making decisions on behalf of GSA.
5.2 Mandatory Standards
- We proactively disclose any real or perceived conflicts of interest that reasonably could make someone
question our judgment, honesty, or objectivity to the appropriate stakeholders.
- We comply with GSA’s Conflict of Interest Policy if we serve as Council members,
6. Complaint-Handling Policy - Code of Ethics
GSA has adopted the Complaint-Handling Policy - Code of Ethics to
further its commitment to provide a professional, ethical culture across the geosciences. Please refer to
policy for details on filing a complaint and the rules GSA uses for processing possible violations and,
appropriate, determining disciplinary or remedial action. Inquiries also may be directed to GSA via by email
Appendix A: Glossary
1. Bullying means using power or perceived vulnerability to harm, intimidate,
sabotage an individual’s professional or academic work or efforts. Bullying may occur in person, in writing,
or via any form of electronic communication.
2. Discrimination means treating individuals differently because of
Characteristics, resulting in unfair treatment and the denial of opportunities in educational,
employment, funding, and/or other professional activities.
3. Harassment is a type of discrimination characterized by unwanted,
behavior toward individuals based on Protected Characteristics. Harassing behavior ranges
from verbal comments, such as epithets and slurs, to visual displays to physical conduct, such as threating
or blocking someone’s way.
4. Protected Characteristicsrefers to factors that are not
relevant and must not be
considered in making decisions about an individual’s competence or qualifications. This includes race,
ethnicity, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, creed, religion, age, genetic information, sexual
orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, veteran status, marital status, medical condition,
pregnancy, education, class, political affiliation, and parental status.
5. Research Misconduct. Behavior defined in accordance with the
U.S. federal regulations (45
CFR 93.103), which includes:
- Fabrication—“making up data or results and recording or reporting
- Falsification—“manipulating research materials, equipment, or
processes, or changing or
omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.”
- Plagiarism—“appropriating another person’s ideas, processes, results,
or words without
giving appropriate credit.” GSA interprets this definition broadly to forbid plagiarism in verbal or
6. Retaliation means punishing someone for engaging in a legally protected
Generally this involves taking adverse action against individuals because they have complained about a legal
or policy violation instead of using legitimate, unbiased criteria to make the decision.
7. Sexual Harassment means unwelcome or unsolicited sexual advances,
requests for sexual
favors, conversations about sexual activities, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Appendix B: Process Used to Create this Code of Ethics
The first step in the development of this Code was to understand the ethics and compliance issues facing the
geoscience community as well as the values and perspectives of our Members. This was accomplished in various
ways, including an Internet survey involving GSA staff, committee members, and Councilors; reviewing GSA
position statements; and researching best practices in developing ethics standards in profit and
organizations, including other professional societies.
This extensive research culminated in the creation of an outline, which was presented to and approved by the
Council in May 2019. At that time, the GSA Council appointed an ad hoc committee to write the Code. The
committee consisted of GSA’s Ethics & Compliance Officer and seven Members of the Society.
The committee started by writing a draft, which was then circulated to all GSA Members during a one-month
period. GSA received well over 100 comments. The committee kept a log with every comment and reached a
on whether and how to adapt the draft to address Member concerns. At the end of this process, the committee
presented a final recommendation to the GSA Council together with the complete Member comment log.
In September 2019, the GSA Council approved this Code, which for the first time in the Society’s history sets
forth mandatory standards of conduct that may be enforced against our Members who violate them. The Code
includes aspirational standards, which more fully embody GSA’s values and make a more enduring statement to
Members, our profession, and the public.
Duly Adopted: September 23, 2019