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AAAS Approves Policy to Revoke Elected Fellows for Misconduct or Ethics Breach

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AAAS has been active in ensuring that the scientific community and its institutions are safe and welcoming for all participants. | Neil Orman/AAAS

The governing body of the American Association for the Advancement of Science voted Saturday to enact a policy under which an elected AAAS Fellow’s lifetime honor can be revoked for proven scientific misconduct or serious breaches of professional ethics.

The AAAS Council adopted and approved the new policy that includes procedures AAAS will follow in considering the revocation of an elected AAAS Fellow’s status. The action came during a special meeting of the AAAS Council, a member-elected body that includes the AAAS board of directors, at AAAS’ Washington, D.C. headquarters.

The new policy will go into effect on October 15, 2018. AAAS issued a related statement on the policy and notified its membership.

Margaret A. Hamburg, AAAS president and chair of the AAAS Council, said the Fellow Revocation Policy “provides a mechanism and procedure for AAAS to consider and act to revoke the status of an elected AAAS Fellow ‘in cases of proven scientific misconduct, serious breaches of professional ethics, or when the Fellow in the view of AAAS no longer merits the status of Fellow.’”

“Harassment has no place in science,” said Hamburg. “We must do more as a scientific community to create a respectful and supportive environment for our colleagues and students.

“We need effective and responsive policies in academic departments and institutions, scientific societies, and government agencies that define expectations of behavior and provide clear reporting processes, as well as consequences for violations,” Hamburg added.

Since 1874, the AAAS Fellows program has recognized scientists for scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Among previous Fellows are astronomer Maria Mitchell, who discovered a comet that now carries her name; inventor Thomas Edison, whose creations included the incandescent light bulb; and anthropologist Margaret Mead, whose field research on culture and personality attracted much acclaim.

AAAS has long been active in efforts to ensure that the scientific community and its institutions are safe and welcoming for all participants.

Recently, AAAS has been working with other professional societies and research funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation, in updating policies relevant to sexual harassment in the scientific community. The AAAS Annual Meeting code of conduct prohibits harassment and provides a clear reporting process. AAAS also will be convening scientific societies in coming months to discuss how societies can respond to harassment concerns.

In addition, AAAS has devoted extensive work on a new initiative, known as SEA Change, designed to shift the culture of academic institutions to better address harassment and social inequities – a program that the National Academies cited as a model in its June report on “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.”

In recent years, a subcommittee of the AAAS Committee on Council Affairs, which reports to the Council, has been examining and drafting procedural recommendations to revoke a Fellow’s status. The committee approved its recommendations and presented the Fellow Revocation Policy to the Council.

The new AAAS policy requires a member to submit a written request seeking the revocation of a Fellow’s status. Such a request should include investigative report findings made either by a federal or state agency, a court of law, a professional organization, an academic institution or to cite an admission of conduct by a Fellow. Requests for revocation, as well as questions about the policy, should be sent to fellowinquiry@aaas.org.

[Associated image: Neil Orman/AAAS]

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Anne Q. Hoy