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Scientific Ethics at AGU

AGU’s Scientific Ethics and Integrity Policy

AGU established a set of guidelines for scientific integrity and professional ethics [PDF] that govern the actions of members and our activities, including in the research and peer review processes of our scientific publications and meetings. Our policy takes a strong stance against harassment, discrimination, and bullying by including them in the definition of research misconduct. It is the responsibility of each of our members to uphold the standards of scientific conduct and report allegations of unethical behavior to the AGU Ethics Committee.

AGU Policy on Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics

Every member must read and agree to abide by our ethics policy upon renewing their membership or becoming a new member. Download the PDF.


Report an allegation by an AGU member/individual in connection to AGU activities

Allegations regarding scientific misconduct must be submitted in writing via email or mailed to AGU. 


Roles and process for investigation

We have compiled the policies and practices for scientific ethics at AGU including roles and processes for investigating misconduct allegations [PDF]. They are separated by topic to help you better understand AGU’s Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics Policy [PDF] and how it may impact you.

Complaints of misconduct that are not directly connected to AGU programs should be reported first to the home institution or workplace where the misconduct took place. AGU does not have the means to investigate activities not directly connected to its programs.

Can only AGU members bring forth complaints of misconduct?

Allegations of misconduct do not have to originate with AGU members.  Allegations of scientific misconduct may be submitted to AGU when the alleged action is directly connected to a program operated under the direction of AGU, including its publications, presentations, and meetings; or its AGU members in other official duties. 

Are anonymous or third-party complaints allowed?

AGU does not accept anonymous complaints. We must verify the complainant’s identity to allow for proper review and follow-up of any allegation.

Third-party complaints are allowed, however, a third-party complaint must identify the target of the alleged misconduct, if applicable. And, the target should be willing to cooperate as part of the ethics investigation. 

To the extent reasonably possible, AGU will protect the identity of the parties involved in an ethics complaint. However, certain disclosures may be necessary in order to conduct an adequate investigation and to the extent required by law.

How do I report an allegation of misconduct?

Allegations regarding misconduct by AGU members or authors in connection with AGU activities (publications, presentation, and other official duties) must be submitted in writing either directly to the chair of the Ethics Committee or to [email protected]. The chair will consider the allegations and determine if a full investigation by the Ethics Committee is warranted.  All parties will be bound to treat all documents and information with the highest degree of confidentiality throughout and after the process. Failure to do so is deemed a serious breach of these guidelines.  

Allegations submitted in writing should be sent to:
Chair of the AGU Ethics Committee and 
AGU VP of Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion
2000 Florida Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009-1277, USA


Allegations may be returned to the sender if they do not contain the following information:

  • The name and affiliation of the person(s) submitting the allegation and the name and identifying information of the person(s) alleged to have committed the scientific misconduct.
  • A description of the allegation that includes the date and circumstances of the alleged misconduct.
  • Any documents or other relevant items (such as data, scientific papers, memos, etc.) with annotation showing specifically how the item relates to the allegation.
  • An explanation of how the allegation relates to scientific misconduct as defined in this policy.
  • A statement explaining any conflict(s) of interest the person making the allegation has with the subject(s), entity(ies), or situation(s) named in the allegation.  A conflict of interest does not preclude the filing of an allegation.

A senior AGU staff member responsible for ethics initially reviews complaints to determine whether the alleged misconduct is covered by the ethics policy and whether the complaint contains all of the information that is required under the ethics policy.

The Ethics Committee chair reviews completed complaints to determine whether an investigating ethics committee should be appointed to conduct a full ethics investigation.

The investigating Ethics Committee conducts an investigation and provides findings and recommendations to the AGU Board.  The Board of Directors has the final authority to determine what action(s) will be taken based on the findings of the Ethics Committee.

An opportunity to appeal the Board’s decision is part of the process but, must be based on new evidence or reconsideration of evidence and include a narrative justification for the appeal.

The investigating Ethics Committee has up to 90 days to complete its investigation (and may request an extension of time, if needed). A typical timeline for handling a complaint may take several months, including time for the AGU Board’s involvement in the review and appeals process.

Sanctions, when issued by the Board, may or may not be made public. The complainant and the respondent are notified of the Board’s decision.

How does AGU define "Conflict of Interest"?

Conflict of interest is defined as any financial or nonfinancial interest that conflicts with the actions or judgments of an individual when conducting scientific activities because it:

  • Could impair the individual’s objectivity,
  • Could create an unfair competitive advantage for any person or organization, or
  • Could create the appearance of either item listed above.

Read AGU’s Conflict of Interest Policy


What standards are applied to determine scientific misconduct?

A finding of scientific misconduct requires that:
  • There is a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and
  • The misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly or recklessly; and
  • The allegation must be proven by a preponderance of evidence.

What happens when a finding of scientific misconduct has been made?

If a finding of scientific misconduct has been made, the Board of Directors will decide the action to be taken.  These may include appropriate sanctions, correction of the publication record, and/or recommendations for education or training.  Examples of potential sanctions can be found in the AGU Scientific Integrity and Ethics Policy [PDF].

What can I do if I’m accused of scientific misconduct?

Once the AGU Board has made a decision with respect to actions to be taken against the respondent, the respondent has sixty (60) days to file an appeal of the sanction and/or the finding. An appeal must be based on new evidence or reconsideration of evidence and include a narrative justification for the appeal. The Board will meet in at its next scheduled meeting to review the appeal and sustain or revise its decision on the sanction or refer the appeal to the Ethics Committee for reconsideration of the finding. That action will be documented for the record and will be communicated to the respondent and the Ethics Committee within 10 working days following the Board meeting. The Ethics Committee may then have up to 90 days to reconsider the finding and any new evidence from the respondent and may ask the Board for an extension of time for gathering additional information.

What self-disclosure does AGU require?

Each candidate or nominee for an AGU honor, and other type of AGU recognition or a governance position, is required to disclose past allegations or institutional proceedings resulting in a finding of professional misconduct, or any current formal complaints related to the candidate’s professional conduct, even if the matter is still pending. Visit the professional conduct self-disclosure page

Ethics and equity resources

We’ve compiled some helpful AGU resources and external links to help you navigate issues related to scientific integrity and ethics.

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