Code of Conduct for RAS Members and Procedure for Investigating Alleged Breaches of the Code (approved by Council in 2021)
RAS Code of Conduct
Byelaws 44 and 45, ‘Section X: Code of Conduct of Members’ of the RAS Byelaws approved in May 2015, direct that:
- Council shall decide on a Code of Conduct which it shall cause to be openly published
- Members shall be required upon election to commit to the Code
- Annual renewal of membership will imply agreement to adhere to the Code
- The Council shall decide on a procedure for the investigation of complaints made by member(s) that a member may have acted materially in contradiction to the Code or otherwise engaged in conduct likely to bring the Society into disrepute.
This Code of Conduct is a subordinate regulation to the RAS Byelaws and includes the procedure to be followed when a breach of the Code is alleged.
It is expected that some Members may disagree with others about some matters, or with some aspects of the Society’s activities, and that they may participate in a robust dialogue intended to settle the issues. However, in pursuing activities that impinge on the affairs or reputation of the Society, Members are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the Code of Conduct laid down by the Society. Failure to do so may lead to a formal investigation and action being taken by the Society against the Member concerned.
Objectives, Purpose and Acceptance
- The Royal Astronomical Society encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science.
- The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to enable the Society to fulfil its Objectives and act as a safe and inclusive forum for free and fair debate on matters and issues concerning the sciences it promotes. It serves to safeguard and preserve the reputation and effective functioning of the Society.
- This Code sets out rights and responsibilities of Fellows of the RAS with respect to the Society as a whole and other Fellows. Fellows must at all times endeavour to act in the best interests of the Society and the sciences it seeks to promote.
- This Code also binds the Society and its Fellows to deal fairly, honestly and respectfully on matters concerning astronomy and geophysics with members of the wider public and society as a whole.
- By becoming or remaining an FRAS, individual Fellows are bound by this Code of Conduct and successor versions.
- The Executive Director, the elected Officers of the Society and the Council shall be responsible for enforcement of this Code of Conduct.
- This Code of Conduct will be reviewed periodically by Council, at least once every five years.
- Fellows must observe the provisions of the RAS Charter and Byelaws, and conduct their activities honourably, with integrity and to the highest professional standards.
- Fellows should seek to further the objectives of the Society at all times.
- Fellows must at all times behave with respect and consideration for other Fellows, RAS staff, potential Fellows and visitors to the RAS.
- Fellows should conduct themselves in accordance with the law and in a manner which does not damage the RAS or its reputation, or those of RAS staff, elected officers and councillors performing duties on behalf of the Society and should not take part in any activity which is in conflict with the overall objects of, or which might, without just cause, damage the reputation of, the Society.
- The RAS may take into account conduct which occurred prior to an individual becoming a Fellow in determining whether the standard Code of Conduct has been breached.
- Fellows are bound by the Code of Conduct at all meetings and events sponsored by the RAS, whether they be at RAS premises or elsewhere, and at all meetings and events where they can be considered to be representing the Society or can be identified as a Fellow.
- Fellows must respect the property of the Society, such as its premises, furnishings, facilities, collections and books, and follow the regulations for the use of its rooms and library.
- As befits members of a scientific society, Fellows should exercise their decision-making, representational, advisory and advocacy roles related to the Society on the basis of fact, recognised constitutional procedure and sound professional judgement.
- In their scientific work, Fellows are bound by the Universal Ethical Code of Scientists (available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-ethical-code-for-scientists), as well as other codes listed at Appendix 1.
- The RAS Code of Conduct for Meetings, which all Fellows must follow at meetings and events organised or sponsored by the RAS, can be found at https://ras.ac.uk/code-conduct-ras-meetings.
- At all other professional meetings and events, organised by related societies and organisations, Fellows must respect the relevant codes of conduct and ethics.
- Where they may have conflicts of interest, Fellows should clearly acknowledge them and be open about them, and – if the conflicts are serious – take action to avoid them.
Diversity, Equality and Inclusion
- Fellows should treat other Fellows, RAS staff, potential Fellows and visitors to the RAS equally, irrespective of any “protected characteristics”, currently age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. All of these are considered by Law as “protected characteristics” under the Equalities Act 2010.
- Fellows should refrain from any type of discrimination on the basis of physical appearance.
- As a learned scientific society, it is the proper function of the RAS to recognise professional excellence, outstanding achievement and initiative by the award of Society medals and honours, invitations to give talks, the distribution of funds for fellowships and grants, and other means of professional recognition. Aside from these proper and lawful activities, however, Fellows should not discriminate on the grounds of intellectual and/or professional achievement.
- Fellows are bound by the RAS policy on “Diversity, Equality and Inclusion” available at https://ras.ac.uk/node/14444.
Bullying, victimisation and harassment
- Whilst there is no strict legal definition of bullying, the RAS understands it to mean the use of power, threats, coercion or force to cause hurt or harm to others who are less able or unable to respond. Bullying may consist of a single incident or a series of repeated actions.
- Victimisation is considered to be the use of power, threats, coercion or force against someone who has legitimately asserted their rights or complained that their rights have been infringed (Equality Act 2010).
- Harassment is considered to be bullying and/or victimisation and/or unwanted conduct related to a “protected characteristic” with the aim of violating an individual’s dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual (Equality Act 2010).
- Bullying, victimisation and harassment are prohibited within the Society and its activities. This includes between Fellows and/or groups of Fellows, and between Fellows and staff. (Bullying, victimisation and harassment between RAS staff members who are not Fellows is considered a matter for RAS personnel procedures.)
- In their dealings on matters concerning the sciences that the RAS sets out to promote, Fellows will treat members of the wider society, including policy-makers, members of the media and young people, according to the principles outlined above for the treatment of other Fellows and the RAS as a whole.
- When occasions to do so arise, Fellows will endeavour to give the best advice and information they can on the basis of fact and fact-supported theory.
- Fellows must not claim expertise or skill in any area of knowledge or professional practice in which they have insufficient competence, qualifications or experience.
- Where they may have conflicts of interest, Fellows should clearly acknowledge them and be open about them.
- The Government has published advice on the “Seven Principles of Public Life”, available at Appendix 1, which provides a reference point for Fellows’ behaviour in wider society.
- Geologists Association Fieldwork Codes: https://geologistsassociation.org.uk/codesofconduct/.
- The Seven Principles of Public Life: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life--2
Making a formal allegation
Formal allegations against Members must be made in writing and sent to the Executive Director or to the President if the Executive Director is personally involved and would have a conflict of interest in the matter. The formal allegation must set out how the Member concerned is alleged to have contravened the Code of Conduct, or otherwise brought the Society into disrepute, and the nature of the evidence on which the allegation is based.
Any Member (or group of Members) may make a formal allegation, including Members of Council. Apart from providing evidence for the investigation, the Member(s) making the allegation shall take no further part in the investigation, determination of the matter, or any appeal process.
Formal allegations against Members can also be received from non-Fellows who will be provided with information on the Code of Conduct for Members and the procedure for investigating alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct. In such cases the investigation will be carried out as if the individual who made the allegation was a Member.
The Member against whom the allegation has been made shall be informed promptly and sent a copy of the formal allegation, including the name of the person(s) bringing the allegation.
All communications with the accused Member in relation to the allegation, any investigation and any hearing shall be posted, using a ‘Signed for’ (or equivalent) service to the address the Society holds on record, and also by email, if any email address is held by the Society.
At the first meeting of the Council held after receipt of a written formal allegation, Council shall determine whether there is, prima facie, a case to answer. The Council may defer its decision and direct that Officers examine the allegation and report in writing to Council.
If there is a significant time delay before the next Council meeting then Officers can draw an initial conclusion and make a recommendation to Council by email, out of Committee.
If following the initial investigation the Council decides there is no case to answer, the complainant and the Member against whom the allegation has been made shall be informed of the decision and the reasons for it.
If, however, the Council decides that there is a case to answer, the complainant shall be informed. The Member who is the subject of the allegation shall also be informed and given a copy of any written report made by the Officers. The Council shall cause the Executive Director to institute a hearing by a minimum of three of the Officers of the Society, one of whom shall be appointed to chair the hearing. The hearing shall be administered by the Executive Director. It shall be the Executive Director’s responsibility to advise the Officers on conducting a fair hearing and to ensure that a written record is made.
Once the Member has been notified that a formal allegation has been made against them, the investigation and any subsequent proceedings may be continued even if the Member chooses to resign. The former Member shall be informed of the Council’s decision on whether to proceed with the investigation or not. The former Member shall be entitled to respond to the allegation and engage in any proceedings on the same basis as if they had remained a Member.
The Member shall be entitled to submit written observations or representations to the Officers on the subject matter of the allegation and, if the Member desires to do so, to appear before the Officers in person. The Officers may require the Member to attend before them and to produce any documents which they consider to be relevant to the investigation; they can also request the attendance of witnesses. The Member and potential witnesses will be given reasonable notice of any such requests. The Society will reimburse travel expenses of those who are asked to attend the hearing, according to its ordinary regulations.
If, given reasonable notice, the Member fails to attend or otherwise to avail themselves of their rights to participate in the investigation and hearing, the Officers may proceed in the Member’s absence.
Following the investigation, Officers will conclude the examination with a written report to Council which will include recommendations as to what action, if any, the Society should take to resolve the matter of the dispute, and to uphold its Code of Conduct and its reputation. The report must give the reasons why the Officers have reached their conclusions. Officers may make any of the following recommendations:
- That the allegation be rejected.
- That the allegation is upheld and that the Society should adopt one or more of the following courses of action in relation the Member concerned:
- take no further action
- require the Member to apologise in writing for the behaviour found to be contrary to the Code of Conduct
- require the Member to give an undertaking in writing to refrain from continuing or repeating the conduct which is found to have breached the Code of Conduct
- suspend the Member from membership of the Society for such period as the Society may determine
- expel the Member from the Society
If there is a significant time delay before the next Council meeting then Officers can provide the written report and make a recommendation to Council by email, out of Committee.
After reaching their conclusions, the Officers shall submit their report and recommendation(s) to the Council for its consideration.
The Council shall consider the report and recommendation(s). If the Council concludes that the accused Member has indeed acted materially in contradiction to the Code, then the Council shall take into account the recommendation(s) on any sanction to be imposed. The final decision shall be a matter for Council, in accordance with the Bylaws, paragraph 45.
A record of the investigation, of the recommendation of Officers, and of the decision of Council shall be kept. The Member and the complainant will both be informed of the conclusions of the investigation, the recommendation of the Officers, and the decision of Council.
If a Member is expelled their name shall immediately be removed permanently from the register of members of the Society and they shall thereupon cease for all purposes to be a Member of the Society. The Member shall not be entitled to use any designation or description which implies membership or former membership of the Society nor attend RAS meetings or events as a non-member.
If a Member is suspended they shall not be entitled during the period of suspension to exercise any of the rights or privileges of membership of the Society or to use any designation or description which implies membership of the Society. The suspended Member shall however remain in all other respects subject to the provisions of the Byelaws.
A Member who has had an allegation against them upheld by the Society may lodge a written appeal against the decision of Council with the Executive Director or President within 28 days of the date on which the letter informing them of that decision was posted.
When an appeal is received, the Executive Director and President shall appoint an Appeals Panel consisting of three previous (non-serving) Officers or Councillors of the Society who have had no prior involvement in the allegation or investigation. The Appeals Panel shall consider the appeal. After reviewing all the information that was available to the Council and Officers, the written report and recommendation by the Officers, any written representations to them by the appellant or by the Officers of the Society, and, if they think fit, after conducting further enquiries, the Panel may affirm or vary the decision of Council. The Appeals Panel must provide written reasons for its decision.
Professor Emma Bunce President
Attachment to the Code of Conduct for RAS Members
Code of Conduct for attendees of Royal Astronomical Society Meetings/Events in Burlington House and elsewhere
The Royal Astronomical Society Fellows and staff value the participation of everyone at events and want all attendees to have an enjoyable experience. Accordingly, all attendees are expected to show respect and courtesy to other attendees and staff. Any RAS meeting/event (including those sponsored by the RAS) will be a discrimination and harassment-free environment for everyone. Discrimination on the basis of, for example, sex, sexual orientation, marital or civil partner status, gender reassignment, race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion, belief, disability, being pregnant or having a child, age, physical appearance and level of intellectual/professional achievement will not be tolerated
The Society does not tolerate harassment of attendees in any form. Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, race or religion; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation, stalking, or following; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.
Expected behavior of participants/attendees at RAS meetings
- Be on time for the start of a session.
- In the lecture theatre/meeting room switch off mobile phones, and refrain from loud conversations outside the door.
- Sit at the rear of the lecture theatre if using a lap-top computer, where possible.
- Remember that lecturers give their time freely. Some are very distinguished; some are early career scientists giving a lecture at this level for the first time. All deserve a fair and encouraging hearing.
- Be kind to others.
- Not insult or put down other attendees.
- Respect RAS staff.
- Behave professionally.
All communication (given by lecturers, organisers and attendees) should be appropriate for a professional audience. Sexual language, sexist, racist, or exclusionary jokes and imagery is not appropriate for any event. Participants/attendees asked to stop any discriminatory or harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Attendees violating these rules may be asked to leave the event, without a refund of any charge that may have been levied. Participants/attendees are entitled to raise a complaint. The Code of Conduct for RAS Members will apply if those involved are Members. Otherwise the matters should be raised with RAS staff who will involve the Executive Director if required. Thank you for helping to make all RAS meetings and events welcoming for all.