14 November 2016

A Guide to the AAS Code of Ethics

Dara Norman NSF's NOIRLab

This guide highlights the major elements of the revised/expanded AAS Code of Ethics (2016), which supersedes the AAS Ethics Statement (2010). It is strongly advised that you read the Code in its entirety to appreciate the full scope of the responsibility of each AAS, Division, and affiliate member to uphold the highest ethical standards of our profession.

The intent of the AAS Code of Ethics is to be educational and corrective rather than punitive. Violations will be taken seriously, but jurisdictional boundaries will be observed, as follows:

  • At their discretion, the AAS Code of Ethics Committee (see below) and AAS Council may cooperate with, and share information with, other institutions or organizations where investigative and/or corrective responsibility resides. Often the complaint will be outside the AAS’s jurisdiction and should be adjudicated at the suspected violator’s home institution or by another organization.
  • Most complaints involving harassment at AAS or Division meetings or other events or activities will be investigated and resolved in accordance with the procedures stated in the AAS Anti-Harassment Policy.
  • Most complaints involving publication ethics will be investigated and resolved in accordance with the procedures of the Publications Board and the AAS Editor in Chief.

Key principles that drive the AAS Code of Ethics:

  • Membership in the AAS or one of its Divisions or attendance at an AAS-supported meeting is a privilege, not a right.
  • Any AAS or Division member or attendee at an AAS-supported meeting may bring a complaint.
  • Each of us shares responsibility for the welfare of our community.

Upon acceptance or renewal of AAS or Division membership, members and affiliates must acknowledge that they have read the AAS Code of Ethics and agree to abide by it. The Code addresses the following behavior:

  • Conduct Toward Others. All people encountered in one’s professional life should be treated with respect. Discriminatory treatment or harassment because of sex, race, religion, color, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity expression, or other characteristics protected under applicable law violates the AAS Code of Ethics. Bullying behavior that demeans, intimidates, humiliates, or sabotages others’ work is unacceptable.
  • Conduct in Research. Research misconduct, including plagiarism and the fabrication of data, violates the AAS Code of Ethics. Reviewers of manuscripts and funding proposals must proactively reveal any conflicts of interest.

The AAS Code of Ethics Committee (CoEC) has been established by the AAS Council to promote a high level of ethical conduct, to oversee the investigation of complaints concerning possible unethical conduct, and to recommend sanctions when a violation of the Code has been confirmed. The AAS may at its discretion engage outside professionals with appropriate expertise to assist the CoEC in investigating complaints. Procedures related to ethics complaints include the following:

  • Complaints may be received by the CoEC, the Executive Officer, or other Society Officers but will move forward only once they are filed with the Secretary’s office via the official webform.
  • The Chair of the CoEC, in consultation with the AAS President, makes determination of probable cause.
  • If probable cause is found, an Examiner may be assigned to conduct an investigation and produce a report for the CoEC.
  • The Respondent will be informed of the complaint and asked to submit a written response.
  • The Examiner will produce a report of the investigation and recommend next steps, which may include mediation through parties without a conflict of interest.
  • The CoEC will then submit its own report to the President. The Complainant and the Respondent will each be invited to submit a written response to the CoEC report.
  • If the Respondent is found to be in violation of the Code of Ethics, the CoEC may recommend sanctions to the AAS President. Sanctions may include a private reprimand, denial of privileges (e.g., AAS membership; participation in AAS-sponsored activities; or appointment to AAS boards, offices, and committees), and/or public censure.
  • A Respondent found to have violated the Code of Ethics may appeal. If AAS membership is terminated, the Respondent may reapply for membership after demonstrating appropriate corrective action.

Dara Norman, Jack Burns & Chick Woodward

Note: The AAS Code of Ethics is now in effect, and the complaint form is online, but no complaints will be processed until the Council appoints the members of the Code of Ethics Committee (CoEC).