Centralizing ASM Ethics

Feb. 6, 2020

Historically, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has been a leader in promoting scientific ethics. ASM has published numerous educational resources focused on scientific ethics, scientific misconduct and responsible conduct of research, including widely used books, reports, articles and videos.

Previously, the ASM ethics policies specifically focused on issues involving scientific misconduct. Individual program areas (journals, meetings, etc.) periodically reviewed and made recommendations for updating these policies at the program level.

Starting in 2019, ASM began a rigorous review of its policies and devoted effort to achieving consistency across the organization on important ethical issues. Today, ASM’s ethics resources, policies and procedures are centralized to provide greater uniformity in responding to ethics issues across the society. As needed, this comprehensive policy will be updated for any unique challenges encountered by specific programs.

In addition to scientific misconduct, the broader scientific community has become acutely aware of the prevalence of professional misconduct, including harassment and bullying. Accordingly, ASM developed and implemented its events Code of Conduct to address sexual harassment and other forms of harassment. ASM has also supported both U.S. Senate and House legislation to combat sexual harassment in STEM. In addition, ASM partakes in the Leadership Council of the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medical fields (STEMM). The mission of the consortium is “to support academic and professional disciplinary societies in fulfilling their mission-driven roles as standard bearers and standard setters for excellence in STEMM fields, addressing sexual harassment in all of its forms and intersectionalities.” This role provides ASM with insights about sexual harassment issues from multiple perspectives and facilitates the proactive development of new ethics policies and procedures as needed to respond to harassment and bullying.

ASM will continue to proactively prevent misconduct by raising awareness and promoting an inclusive culture. The ASM Board of Directors (BOD) has launched the ASM Diversity, Equity and Inclusion project (DEI), a year-long study that aims to make the microbial sciences more inclusive. This task force will serve for 1 year as an external, advisory group for the BOD.

Finally, ASM is reviewing its core values, which are the fundamental beliefs of our society that define what we believe, and will help ensure that these core values inform our activities and goals. ASM strives to be a beacon society by integrating ethics, inclusivity and values into its core values and culture.