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President's Column: AAS Ethics Task Force

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - 09:54

An effective professional society should help provide a work environment in which its members thrive. The past year has seen a great deal of publicity about poor workspaces, from deplorable incidents of sexual harassment to milder but still impactful examples of a climate that can be unwelcoming to women, people of color, and other minority groups. As I wrote last fall, the AAS anti-harassment policy, which applies at our meetings (or any venue where the AAS is in charge), has been used since 2008 to address occasional problems encountered by meeting attendees, and seems to be working well. However, the AAS Code of Ethics, approved by the AAS Council in 2010 and applicable to professional behavior generally, needed updating.

Accordingly, I appointed a Task Force chaired by AAS Councilor Dara Norman, with members Christine Jones (incoming AAS President) and Jack Burns (currently AAS Vice-President). They have spent several months working hard on a revised Code. The current draft is posted on the AAS home page.

This is really a complicated issue. There is no question that the AAS should be a leader in defining professional standards and helping to create a professional workplace. But at the same time, the AAS is not the astro-behavior police. Frankly, just figuring out where we can or should step in is complicated.

This is why I am asking all AAS members to please help make sure the AAS Code of Ethics (draft version) reflects what members believe are appropriate standards and processes. We know your time is oversubscribed and we greatly value your input. Please email ethics@aas.org with your comments and suggestions. Thank you.

C. Megan Urry
AAS Past President
Yale University
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