SOCHIAS Code of Conduct
The Chilean astronomical community has grown exponentially in the last few decades, going from only about 20 professional astronomers in the mid 80’s to a total of 276 in 2021 (1). Our astronomical community is now very diverse, composed of people of different abilities, backgrounds, and perspectives who all share an interest in promoting and advancing the astronomical sciences in Chile. The Chilean Astronomical Society (hereafter SOCHIAS) has played a crucial role in the organization and representation of the astronomical community both within Chile as well as abroad.
Due to the growth and maturation of our ever-more complex community, it has become necessary to consider more formally how we behave in our professional lives, both amongst SOCHIAS members as well as within society as a whole, respecting our differences and assuming the ethical responsibilities of our job.
The main purpose of this document is to inform everyone associated with SOCHIAS about what is expected of them, and what actions are considered inappropriate or unacceptable.
Note: the SOCHIAS Ethics Committee used the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS(2)) code of ethics as a guideline to draw up this document, and also incorporated aspects and extracts from the code of conduct of the European Southern Observatory, with the express approval of both institutions.
All people encountered in professional life should be treated with absolute respect. At no time is abusive, demeaning, humiliating, or intimidating behavior acceptable; abuses of power are unacceptable.
SOCHIAS members should work to provide an environment that encourages the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas. They should promote equality of opportunity and fair treatment for all their colleagues, regardless of gender, race, ethnic and national origin, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, etc.
More senior members of the profession, especially research supervisors, have a special responsibility to facilitate the research, educational, and professional development of students and subordinates.
Outlined below in more detail are several types of unacceptable behavior by members of SOCHIAS, but this list is not exhaustive or complete.
Harassment because of race, religion, color, gender, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity expression, or any other protected class, violates the SOCHIAS Code of Conduct. Harassment is not defined based on the intention of the perpetrator, but rather on its impact on the person affected.
Inappropriate behavior including verbal harassment, nonverbal harassment (e.g. obscene gestures), or unwanted physical contact (e.g., physical assault or violating an individual’s personal space) is considered harassment and in violation of the Code of Conduct.
Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual behavior, requesting sexual favors, verbal, physical, or gestoral conduct of a sexual nature, or any other such conduct which could be reasonably construed or perceived as offensive or humiliating to another person, when this conduct interferes with an individual’s job performance or has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Although typically this involves a pattern of conduct, a hostile work environment can also result from a single egregious act. Sexual harassment can occur between people of the same or opposite sex and people of any gender can be victims or perpetrators.
Sexually oriented conduct can include verbal sexual harassment (e.g., innuendoes, suggestive comments, jokes of a sexual nature, sexual propositions, lewd remarks), nonverbal sexual harassment (e.g., the distribution, display, or discussion of sexually oriented written or graphic material), or physical sexual harassment (e.g., unwelcome, unwanted, unrequested, or uninvited physical contact), and occur once or repeatedly.
Discrimination is any unfair treatment or arbitrary distinction based on a person’s race, sex, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, age, language, social origin, or other status. Discrimination may be systematic or an isolated event, affecting one person or a group of persons similarly situated or may manifest itself through harassment or abuse of authority.
Discrimination also includes special treatment against people who have brought grievances to, or have been denounced to, the SOCHIAS Ethics Committee or similar body, or participate in the execution of the Committee’s responsibilities.
Abuse of Authority
Abuse of authority is the improper use of a position of influence, power, or authority against or in favor of another person. This is particularly serious when a person uses their influence, power, or authority to improperly influence the career or employment conditions of another.
Discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, are particularly serious when accompanied by abuse of authority.
All scientific studies should allow review, analysis, and reproduction by others who are not collaborators. It is incumbent on researchers involved in studies to make results available in a timely manner. The fabrication, falsification, or selective reporting of data or results with the intent to mislead or deceive is unethical, unacceptable, and fraudulent and in violation of this Code of Conduct, as is the appropriation of unpublished proprietary data or research results from others without permission and attribution. Data obtained from public databases should be cited in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations of the source from which they are obtained.
The deliberately improper use of public funds, proven via disciplinary action taken by the organization that provides the funds or institutions of higher education, research, or other entities, especially behavior which results in damaging the image of SOCHIAS and/or the scientific community in the eyes of the public, constitutes a violation of this Code of Conduct. This extends to other types of research resources such as telescope observing time. The Chilean astronomical community is rich in such observational resources, thanks to the support of international observatories and the agreements signed with the University of Chile or other government agencies. It is our duty to use these resources in the manner in which they were conceived – to benefit our community’s development and that of the country. The deliberate abuse of these resources constitutes unacceptable behavior and is a violation of this Code of Conduct.
Of course, errors can be committed in scientific research as in all endeavors. Any such errors committed in this context will not constitute a violation as long as they are properly reported and corrected in a reasonable time scale once detected. All coauthors of a paper have the responsibility to report any such errors they encounter in a publication, with primary responsibility resting on the first author.
Any research involving human subjects (e.g. collecting opinions via surveys or questionnaires) must respect Chilean law, particularly Law 19.628(3). This law requires that the researchers undertaking any such study financed by public funds must obtain authorization from an accredited scientific ethics committee before embarking on the study.
Publication and Authorship
All persons who have made significant contributions to a work intended for publication should be offered the opportunity to be included as authors. This includes all those who have contributed significantly to the inception, design, execution, or interpretation of the research to be reported.
People who have not contributed significantly should not be included as authors.
Publications should be original work generated by the authors and not previously published elsewhere. Data provided by others must be cited appropriately, even if obtained from a public database. Deliberate, wanton omission of a pertinent author or reference, or intentionally misrepresenting such, is unacceptable.
Plagiarism is the act of reproducing text, ideas, or other materials from other sources without proper credit. Such material is regarded as plagiarized regardless of whether it is inserted verbatim or has been modified or paraphrased. Citations to others’ work or one’s own must be clear and correct. Plagiarism not only applies to the work of others but also to one’s own previously published work. Plagiarism is unethical behavior and a violation of this Code of Conduct.
These considerations apply not only to scholarly journals, but also to other forms of scientific communication, including to the general public.
Peer Review, Consulting and Conflicts of Interest
Peer review is an essential component of many aspects of the scientific process, such as evaluating research proposals, publishing research results, and evaluating colleagues for career advancement. Peer review can serve its intended function only if members of the scientific community are prepared to provide thorough, fair, timely, and objective evaluations based on requisite expertise. Materials provided in confidence for peer review must not be used or disclosed in any way by the reviewers, and discussions among reviewers must be held in strictest confidence outside those involved directly in the review. Although peer review can be difficult and time-consuming, scientists have an obligation to participate in the process.
The same is true for other types of consulting that we engage in with society in our position as experts, which is also our duty to perform. This is especially important for any participation in public debates by representatives of SOCHIAS, contributing their views as scientists and informed citizens to the development of the country.
In the context of peer review and consulting, as in all aspects of our scientific duties where applicable, any professional relationship or action that may be, or perceived to be, a conflict of interest should be fully disclosed. Conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to, close personal relationships, professional or business relations between the reviewer and proposing investigator or others associated with the material being evaluated. Conflict of interest may also include, but is not limited to, situations where the outcome of a deliberation will influence the professional or financial status of one of the reviewers or participants. Conflicts of interest are not necessarily cause for removal from an evaluation as long as they are properly informed. It is recommended to alert the appropriate agency of a possible conflict of interest even though one is not certain that a conflict indeed exists, and to educate oneself on the scope of what constitutes a conflict of interest under various circumstances.
Conduct in Society
Part of our responsibility as scientists consists in communicating our knowledge in astronomy and related disciplines to non-specialists in these fields and/or the general public. Such communication is done via, e.g. public events, classes at a school, university, or general public level, interviews, consulting, etc., both in person as well as via audiovisual or written media, etc.
Intentionally misrepresenting scientific results constitutes a violation of this Code of Conduct, as does deliberately spreading false claims and/or pseudo-science. Any such repeated behavior, even though it is not possible to reliably prove its intentional nature, still constitutes a violation of this Code of Conduct.
Filing of complaints to the SOCHIAS Ethics Committee
Anyone, whether or not they are a member of SOCHIAS, who is affected by the actions of a person associated with SOCHIAS, according to the guidelines established above, can file a complaint to the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee will follow established channels to investigate the situation and take any action deemed appropriate, following the SOCHIAS statutes.
In case member(s) of the Ethics Committee have a credible conflict of interest with the complaint under investigation, they should be removed from the Committee for this case and the Directorship should name a replacement after consultation with the other Committee members.
The Ethics Committee will guarantee the privacy of the complainers and the accused, and the integrity of the process. The Committee will protect the anonymity of all people involved as long as this does not limit the proper execution of the investigation. In case it is necessary to lift anonymity during the investigation, this will only be done after consultation with all parties involved. Current and former members of the Committee will not discuss active or closed cases outside Committee meetings or beyond situations necessary for the investigation to proceed.
SOCHIAS members consulted by the Committee during the course of an investigation should abide by the same privacy and integrity requirements and are expected to comply in an opportune and timely fashion.
In the case that an organization, e.g. a university or government agency, has disciplined one or more members of SOCHIAS for situations that violate the Code of Conduct, and this penalty can be properly accredited by the Committee, the Committee can take its own disciplinary action. The complaint, in such a case, can be presented to the Committee by any of the parties involved in the situation and/or investigation, without having directly been a victim of the conduct.
The decision of the Committee will be communicated to the parties involved and the SOCHIAS Directorship. The Directorship will determine whether, and how, to inform the community about the decision. Nevertheless, if a member(s) of the Directorship has a credible conflict of interest with the complaint under investigation, this determination will be carried out by an ad-hoc committee composed by all board members and members of the Ethics Committee that do not have a conflict. The Directorship will be in charge of maintaining a record of all the decisions made by the Ethics Committee and regulate the access to these records by SOCHIAS members and future members of the Ethics Committee.