January 15, 2019
The GS board of directors approved the society's first code of ethics in December, following more than a year of research and discussion. The code helps define the values of scientific and professional integrity that the society has been committed to since its founding. All members are encouraged to read it.
In 2016, the GS board established an Ethics Committee to determine whether the society should adopt a formal code of behavior for its members. The society's bylaws have long stated that membership is open to, "any person of good character and unchallenged basic scientific integrity and honesty." Beyond this general statement, however, the society had no official statement of what constitutes ethical behavior as it relates to the organization's programs and activities.
The committee quickly determined that a society of the GS's size should have a code of ethics to clearly state the values of professional behavior that its members aspire to. After studying other organizations' codes and consulting legal experts, it became clear that the society actually needed two documents: a code of conduct for all attendees of the Goldschmidt Conference (whether GS members or not) and a society code of ethics to define the "good character" mentioned in the bylaws.
Following nearly a year of development, the GS and the European Association of Geochemistry adopted the first code of conduct for Goldschmidt in 2018 (Goldschmidt is the joint annual meeting of the two societies). It explains the conduct expected of anyone who participates in the conference and outlines a procedure for addressing instances of harassment that take place during the meeting.
With the conference policy in place, the Ethics Committee then turned to the code of ethics. The opening statement sets the tone: "As a professional society, the GS is committed to providing an open, diverse, and supportive environment and expects the highest standards of ethical conduct among its members and participants at its activities to encourage the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas."
While an ethics code is necessary for organizations like the GS to deal with discrimination, misconduct, and other issues, the Ethics Committee wanted to make the policy an aspirational guide that can help the society become a more inclusive forum for its current and potential members. Given that the GS has members in 70 countries, the committee drew on resources from many countries in order to make it as representative as possible of different perspectives on professional integrity. After more than a year of discussion and revisions, the committee finished its work in the fall and the GS board formally adopted the code in December.
A document like this must necessarily evolve to stay relevant, so the society welcomes comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.