The Role for a Large Scientific Society in Addressing Harassment and Work Climate Issues

Billy M. Williams, Christine McEntee, Brooks Hanson, Randy Townsend


The American Geophysical Union, a scientific society of some 60,000 members worldwide, established in 2011 a set of scientific integrity and professional ethics guidelines to address the actions of its members, the governance of the union in its internal activities, and the operations and participation in its publications, scientific meetings, including its honors and awards programs. However, these guidelines, like those for other societies, did not explicitly address harassment, related workplace issues, or implicit bias in the practice of science. The recent exposure of several issues related to the sciences caused AGU to reexamine its role and obligations. In a twelve-month period starting October 2015, more than six high profile cases of harassment in the sciences were publicly disclosed in the U.S., including one case that was brought to the attention of the U.S. Congress. A growing body of literature on harassment and other biases in the sciences, including data extracted and reported by AGU, has shed new light on this topic. As a result of this assessment, AGU now actively helps educate its members on Ethics issues in various ways, both broadly as well as specifically around items related to gender bias, harassment and other equity and inclusion topics. New and renewed members are specifically made aware of AGU’s ethics policies, and additional efforts are increasingly embedded across publications, awards, meetings, talent pool and other AGU member-focused programs. In addition, AGU is starting a program focused on addressing harassment and related work-climate matters in the Earth and Space Science community, with an emphasis on the growing need and proposed active roles for scientific societies.


Harassment, Discrimination, Policies, Ethics

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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN:  2037-416X