Professional Ethics Policy

Professional Ethics Policy[1]

A. Introduction & Purpose

The mission of the Seismological Society of America (SSA) is to advance seismology and the understanding of earthquakes for the benefit of society.  To achieve this mission, SSA expects its members and those who participate in SSA-sponsored programs to adhere to the highest standards of scientific integrity, personal accountability, and ethics in their professional activities.

The purpose of this Professional Ethics Policy (“Policy”) is to be clear about SSA’s conduct standards for members and others who participate in SSA-programs, and to explain SSA’s compliance and enforcement procedures. By establishing and consistently applying these standards, SSA’s overarching objective is to advance excellence and integrity – grounded in a culture of respect, inclusivity, and professional conduct – and to foster full participation for all talent within the Society and across the seismology field.

B. Applicability

This Policy applies to SSA members, as defined in the Society’s Bylaws, and all other individuals, groups, and entities that participate or are involved in SSA-sponsored programs, wherever located.  Such programs include but are not limited to participating in SSA meetings and events, publications, honors and awards, and leadership.

This Policy is supported by additional policies for specific SSA-sponsored programs, including SSA’s Meetings Code of Conduct and Ethical Publishing Guidelines.  Program participants are expected to read and abide by these additional policies.

C. Oversight

The Board of Directors (“Board”) is responsible for overseeing this Policy to promote awareness and compliance with SSA’s ethics rules and to ensure that they are enforced in a fair, consistent way.  In addition, the Board is responsible for conducting an annual review and assessment of this and related standards to make sure they are up to date and effective.  The Board has created the Ethics Committee to assist the Board with this work.  Additional details about the role, composition, and authority of the Ethics Committee are included in the Ethics Committee Charter.

D. Expected Standards of Conduct

In adopting this Policy, SSA emphasizes the importance of making ethical decisions to advance excellence and maintain the public’s confidence in the seismology profession.  SSA expects all members and others covered by this Policy to:

  • Comply with the law and all policies, rules, and permitting requirements that apply to their professional activities, including but not limited to SSA’s Meetings Code of Conduct and SSA’s Publishing Ethics Guidelines.
  • Avoid any behavior that would be prejudicial to SSA’s interests regardless of whether it is specifically cited in this Policy.
  • Practice the community standards of conduct set forth in the Guidelines for Ethical Professional Conduct published by the American Geosciences Institute (“AGI”). SSA is a member of AGI and encourages all SSA members to live up to the letter and spirit of AGI’s guidelines in carrying out their professional activities.

E. Prohibited Conduct

The following conduct is prohibited – regardless of whether it takes place in person, in writing, or online – and may result in disciplinary action, including revocation of membership or awards, as set forth below in Section F.

  • Research misconduct, including fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism, as defined in the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct (See U.S. federal regulations, 45 CFR Section 93.103).
  • Discrimination, harassment, or similar unwelcome, exclusionary behavior because of gender or gender identify, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, veteran status, age, citizenship, language, political or other opinion, physical appearance, economic status, and/or other identities. Examples of unacceptable behavior that may be considered discrimination or harassment include, but are not limited to, engaging in biased, stereotyping, intimidating, or coercive conduct or commentary, whether seriously or in jest.
  • Bullying others by using one’s power or another’s perceived vulnerability to harm to intimidate, coerce, and/or sabotage their professional or academic work or efforts.
  • Personal attacks, violence, or threats of harm of any kind.
  • Retaliation against any person who raises a conduct concern or who assists in any way to investigate or resolve such concerns.
  • Violation of SSA policies and procedures or applicable laws/regulations, including engaging in any other behavior deemed prejudicial to SSA’s interests.

F. Compliance Procedures

By establishing and communicating clear standards, SSA aims to promote ethical professional conduct by its members and across all SSA-sponsored programs.  To help achieve this goal, SSA has established the following compliance procedures:

  1. Compliance Procedures.

a. Agreements to Comply. SSA requires all SSA members and program participants to comply with applicable ethics policies and procedures as a condition of participation.  To that end, all new and renewing SSA members and program participants must certify that they have reviewed and agree to comply with applicable ethics standards before they are allowed to join or participate.  This requirement extends to SSA membership and renewal applications, SSA meetings and event registrations, and the submission of manuscripts to SSA publications.

b. Ethics Disclosure Requirement. SSA expects SSA Leaders and awardees to embody high standards of scientific integrity, personal accountability, and ethics in their professional activities.  (For the purpose of this Policy, “SSA Leaders” includes members of the Board and committees as well as Associate Editors.).  Therefore, all prospective SSA Leaders and awardees must complete an Ethics Disclosure Form to be considered for open positions.  In doing so, candidates shall disclose whether any court or another credible third party has issued a finding against them based on their professional conduct, including any instances of Prohibited Conduct listed above in Section E.  Candidates also must disclose whether they currently are under investigation by a court or another credible third party related to allegations of professional misconduct and/or instances of Prohibited Conduct.

SSA has the sole discretion to determine eligibility based on the disclosed information. Typically, individuals will be deemed ineligible if they fail to submit the Ethics Disclosure Form on time, or they disclose an adverse finding.  When candidates disclose an ongoing investigation, SSA generally will deem the candidate temporarily ineligible for further consideration pending the outcome of the investigation.

G. Enforcement

SSA members and program participants are expected to adhere to commonly held standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity, which includes complying with this Policy and other applicable SSA ethics standards.

As explained below, SSA applies different enforcement standards depending upon the nature and circumstances of potential violations.  While each situation is different, SSA takes all conduct concerns seriously and is committed to maintaining fair, confidential procedures to uphold the Society’s commitment to ethics.

  • Potential Misconduct Related to SSA-Sponsored Programs. When SSA becomes aware of potential misconduct related to SSA meetings or the publishing process, SSA follows the complaint-handing and enforcement procedures outlined in the Meetings Code of Conduct and Ethical Publishing Guidelines.  For meeting-related concerns, SSA typically performs its own investigations to determine whether a violation has occurred.  For publishing-related concerns, the journal Editor in Chief typically consults with SSA staff and/or Chair of the Publications Committee before deciding upon the appropriate follow up, including the possibility of requesting that another institution investigate the suspected misconduct.
  • Findings of Misconduct. In the rare case that SSA members and/or awardees engage in misconduct that violates Section E of this Policy – either based on conduct that took place outside of SSA-sponsored programs or after a finding that they violated SSA’s Meetings Code of Conduct or Ethical Publishing Guidelines – SSA will consider revoking their status as members and/or awardees pursuant to SSA’s Membership and Awards Revocation Procedures.  As detailed in these procedures, SSA will only consider revoking an individual’s status as a member or awardee if it receives written proof from a credible body that the individual in question has engaged in misconduct.  Examples of such credible bodies include the Federal Government’s Office of Research Integrity, other Federal or state agencies, professional organizations or societies, universities, courts, or an admission(s) of conduct by the individual in question.  Except in the case where SSA made findings of wrongdoing in connection with SSA-sponsored programs, SSA shall not perform its own investigations in making revocation decisions.

How to Initiate Revocation Requests.  All revocation requests must be initiated by SSA members using the Revocation Request Form.  Please refer to SSA’s Membership and Awards Revocation Procedures for details.


[1]Approved by SSA’s Board of Directors March 2022.