The Sloan Digital Sky Survey: Code of Conduct

Principles

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) welcomes and respects all Collaboration members, regardless of race, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, or family and socio-economic status or cultural background. The success of the SDSS in creating a vibrant and productive scientific culture is widely recognized as one of its signature achievements, and the diversity of the SDSS Collaboration is one of its critical strengths.

The success of the SDSS, its participants and members relies on vigorous scientific and technical discourse within a framework of respect for all participants, including scientists, engineers, support staff at the observatories and participating institutions, contractors working with the SDSS, and prospective external collaborators and members. Interactions among SDSS participants occur in many different contexts, including Collaboration meetings, telecons, email exchanges on or off the Collaboration lists, and in-person exchanges. This Code of Conduct states the Collaboration’s expectation of respect and appropriate behavior in all of these interactions and outlines courses of action when this expectation is violated.

The SDSS Collaboration will not tolerate harassment, bullying, or persistent unwelcome behavior of one individual or group against another. The Collaboration has a strong interest in nurturing the careers of junior scientists and protecting their stature and scientific freedom within the Collaboration. The Appendix quotes the definition of harassment adopted by the International Astronomical Union, which also applies within the SDSS. Invitation to SDSS workshops, telecons, and email lists are a privilege extended by the collaboration, not a right of collaboration membership, and any member engaging in unprofessional behaviour places their invitation at risk.

This code covers social misconduct. Scientific misconduct is already covered by the PoO and Publication Policy. SDSS-IV considers breaches of either the social or scientific code of conduct equally serious. It is stated in the PoO that “SDSS-IV fully endorses the principles of professional conduct articulated in Article X of the Bylaws of the American Astronomical Society and expects all those associated with the project to follow those precepts. Specifically, SDSS-IV communications (meetings, phone conferences, e-mail exchanges) are intended to “provide an environment that encourages the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas.” It is the responsibility of members of the SDSS-IV Collaboration to ensure that such discourse is “conducted in a professional atmosphere in which all participants are treated with courtesy and respect.”

Reporting Concerns about Violations

An individual who wishes to raise a concern about inappropriate behavior or violation of this Code of Conduct can do so by contacting one or both of the Collaboration Ombudspersons (​ombuds@sdss.org), the Spokesperson (​spokesperson@sdss.org), the Director (​director@sdss.org), or any other member of the Project Management Committee they trust.

Concerns will be treated confidentially unless/until the person raising them agrees to have them communicated further or unless the person contacted is required to report a misconduct allegation by institutional rules or by law. Issues arising under this Code of Conduct will be treated with discretion to the extent practical, but if the complainant wishes to pursue a consideration of formal remedial actions this will necessarily involve some information sharing with relevant members of the project and collaboration management.

All requests for formal investigation will be acknowledged within seven days, and complainants will be informed of who is the contact point for their case (if different from the person they contacted) so that they can inquire about the status of their complaint.

Sanctions

In the event of serious or persistent violations, formal sanctions may be required. Any such sanctions will be decided upon by a committee composed of the Director, the Spokesperson, the Project Scientist, a standing member of the Advisory Council, the Chair of the Advisory Council, and a member of the ARC Board omitting any of these individuals who have a conflict of interest. Being at the same institution as either the source or target of the complaint will be automatically considered as a conflict. If the Chair of the Advisory Council has a conflict of interest, then another member of the AC Executive Committee will represent the AC on the committee. The committee will investigate the alleged violations, communicating with both the person or persons raising concerns and the alleged violator and with other SDSS members as necessary. In order to apply sanctions the committee must find the accused has committed the charges by a preponderance of evidence, i.e., it must be more likely true than not true. Sanctions will depend on the severity and persistence of the misconduct.

The ARC Board Member will establish contact with their institution’s Title IX office for advice, including on the appropriate level of SDSS-IV involvement.

Possible sanctions

  • Removal from one or more project and collaboration email lists.
  • Loss of access to the collaboration wiki pages.
  • Loss of the privilege of attending project and collaboration telecons.
  • Loss of the privilege of attending collaboration meetings.
  • Removal from committees or leadership roles.

In addition, the committee may have a responsibility to notify the individual’s home institution of the allegations and its findings. The most serious behaviour may be beyond the scope and training of the committee to investigate, and in such instances the committee will be available to support the complainant if they choose to report to their own institution or other bodies as appropriate. In severe cases, the Director or ARC BoG Chair will request that the institution, on the basis of their own investigation, consider withdrawing the individual from the survey.

When considering sanctions, the committee will endeavor to protect the interests of students and postdocs working with the violator if they are not themselves in violation of Code of Conduct.

We also note that the SDSS-IV Publication Policies document specifies the sanctions that can be imposed for scientific misconduct. These include a delay in publication and, in extreme cases, debarment from access to SDSS-IV data.

Once the committee reaches a decision about the appropriate response, the decision and any sanctions will be sent to a subcommittee of the ARC Board for approval (the Chair of which will be the ARC Board member on the sanctions committee), following which they will be described in a written communication to the individual or individuals being sanctioned and communicated verbally to the complainant. The written report is intended to ensure clarity of communication, and verbatim posting of this report in a public forum would be considered a violation of the Code of the Conduct. The respondent and the complainant will both have an opportunity to file a written response to the committee decision within seven days. The committee reserves the right to change its decision on the basis of new evidence at any time and will notify both parties of any changes. There is a right of appeal to the ARC Board whose decision will be final. Such appeal must be in writing and delivered to the ARC Board within 30 days of the date of the decision.

Appendix

Definitions

Complainant:
The person who believes a violation of the code of conduct has happened and has brought that matter to the attention of SDSS.
Respondent:
The person who has been accused of a violation of the code of conduct, and is asked to respond to that.
Harassment:
Definition of Harassment adopted from ​https://www.iau.org/news/announcements/detail/ann16007/.

In general, harassment is a conduct that exerts unwelcome pressure or intimidation. This conduct includes, but is not limited to: epithets, slurs or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts; denigrating jokes and display or circulation of written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group.

Particularly serious is the sexual harassment that refers to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Because of the wide international nature of the IAU, it is important to realize that behavior and language that are welcome/ acceptable in one particular cultural environment may be unwelcome/offensive to another. Consequently, individuals must use discretion to ensure that their words and actions communicate respect for others. This is especially important for those in positions of authority since individuals with lower rank or status may be reluctant to express their objections or discomfort regarding unwelcome behavior.

Documents

Download the SDSS COINS Best Practices, v2.