29 October 2015

AAS Ethics Task Force Seeks Member Comments & Suggestions

Dara Norman NSF's NOIRLab

Dear Colleagues:

In her President's Column on 15 October, Meg Urry addressed the need for our community to examine lessons learned and next steps following the news about Prof. Geoff Marcy. She also acknowledged that the current AAS ethics statement needs to be updated; it uses vague language and gives no guidance on procedures either to file a complaint or to follow up on one. In response to this recognition, Meg has appointed me (Dara Norman, AAS Councilor), to chair a task force whose charge is to revise the ethics statement. The other members are Jack Burns (AAS Vice-President) and Christine Jones (AAS President Elect).

Meg wrote, "This task force will study similar policies at other scientific societies; change or augment descriptions of proscribed behavior in the code; develop a set of procedures for initiating and carrying out an investigation of a member who appears to be in violation of the code; and define the possible sanctions available to the AAS, and whether those should include prohibition from meetings, expulsion, and/or other steps. The new procedures and sanctions will be developed with recent events in mind but will be applicable to the much broader suite of misconduct defined in the code of ethics. I have asked this task force to work as quickly as possible."

As Meg also mentioned in her column, we on the AAS Council already have received many emails with comments and suggestions about how to handle ethics violations. These will be useful as the task force works to revise the society's ethics code into one that defines clear policies and procedures. Although we have heard from many who know one of us personally or who feel empowered enough to send an email to the whole Council, we recognize that many with good ideas may not feel quite so comfortable or empowered.

A broad diversity of input will make our outcome stronger. Therefore, the task force invites your comments and suggestions for changes to the current AAS ethics statement. You can submit them to us in either of two ways:

  1. Email your comments and suggestions to [email protected]. Emails received via this alias will be shared only with the task-force members, i.e., Dara Norman, Jack Burns, and Christine Jones.
  2. Submit your comments and suggestions anonymously via our online form. To guarantee your anonymity, make sure you are not signed in to the AAS website when you fill out the form. Form submissions will go to the task force without any identifying information.

Comments may be sent anytime, but only those received by Friday, 13 November, will be given full consideration by the task force. We anticipate providing another opportunity for comments once we have a draft of the revised ethics statement.

— Dara Norman, Chair, AAS Ethics Task Force