4S Events Ethics Policy

In response to requests from 4S members and conference organizers, the Council of the Society for Social Studies of Science approved an Event Ethics Policy during winter 2019.   With this policy, the 4S Council hopes to proactively support inclusive behavior at 4S events. The policy does not seek to limit scholarly inquiry and debate. The purpose of the policy is to protect scholarly inquiry and debate by establishing mechanisms that discourage personal harassment, prejudice, and aggression.  Towards this, the policy calls for the enactment of a process through which 4S event participants can report and seek response to violations of the policy, including incidences of sexual and other forms of harassment. See the full text of the 4S Event Ethics policy below.  

The 4S Events Ethics Policy will be first implemented at the 2019 4S annual meeting in New Orleans.  It will be re-visited by the 4S Council following the conference. Feedback on the design and implementation of the policy is welcome and can be put submitted to 4Sethicsombuds@gmail.com

4S will do what it can to address reported problems as the conference unfolds.  Equally important is the way the Event Ethics Policy creates a documentation process that the 4S Council and future event organizers can use to design around reported problems in the future.  4S Council encourages reporting in this vein. All communications regarding the Event Ethics Policy will be in confidence and restricted to members of relevant committees. Reports will be submitted to the full 4S Council with names redacted so that they can build on what is learned in future 4S events organizing. 

4S has limited capacity to respond to some problems and often can only give direction and provide supporting documentation for next steps with other institutional actors.  Individuals experiencing harassment can also report this to appropriate offices at the home institution of the accused, with or without involvement of 4S Committees and Council. 

In an emergency situation, the first step is always to call 9-11 (the telephone number used to contact emergency services in the United States). Sheraton hotel security is available 24/7 at ext. 5090 or directly at (504) 592-5604.

Supporting Inclusive Scholarly Exchange 

4S’s  Event Ethics Policy is designed to proactively support civility, fair treatment and  inclusivity at 4S events. 4S events should be free of harassment, hostilities, racism and sexism. Event participants should not experience intolerance, bigotry or derision.  Instead, 4S events should be venues for sincere scholarly exchange, where diverse voices and perspectives can be leveraged to advance insight. The goal is not to inhibit debate about controversial or sensitive matters but to encourage respectful relations across epistemic, cultural, ethical and political differences.  

Implementation of the Events Ethics Policy at the 4S 2019 Meeting in New Orleans 

The Event Ethics policy will be implemented through the work of three related committees, with the help of session chairs.  Session chairs are responsible for and empowered to implement this policy in their sessions, with the help of the Events Ombuds Committee if needed.  In short, session chairs are empowered to ask someone to leave if their behavior is hostile or otherwise inappropriate and doesn’t change when asked.  The Events Ombuds Committee will provide first-response to problems reported by email or phone; members of the Events Ombuds Committee also have the authority to ask conference participants to leave a particular session if their behavior is deemed inappropriate.  Session chairs who act on this policy should report details by email or phone to the Event Ombuds Committee, who it turn will pass their reports to the Event Ethics Committee, members of which have the authority to ask conference participants not to attend particular conference sessions or events in advance, or not to return to the conference at all.  At the close of the conference, both the Event Ombuds and Event Ethics Committees will (separately) share a record of problems addressed with the 4S Council Ethics Committee, which will have the authority to make decisions about how people charged with violation of the Event Ethics Policy may participate in 4S and its events in the future. The 4S Council Ethics Committee is also responsible for updating the 4S Events Ethics Policy and  for making recommendations to future organizers of 4S conferences and other events. 

Reports of inappropriate behavior will be considered confidential.  Personal identity will only be shared with the Events Ethics Committee and the 4S’s Council Ethics Committee, with all members having agreed to strict non-disclosure of sensitive information.  Details on the event without personal identifiers will be shared with 4S Council so that they are informed and can be proactive in updating relevant 4S policy as needed. 

The 4S Council and conference organizers asked for all conference participants’s cooperation in implementing this policy. In particular: we ask for the cooperation of participants if they are asked to leave a particular conference session or event because they are experienced as creating a hostile environment.  Leaving a session need not be seen as agreeing with the charge; a process through which conference participants can report what they think was an unfair request to leave a session is detailed below. But immediately leaving a session if requested by someone authorized to do so through this policy (as described below) is a way to support this policy in spirit, while later disagreeing with its implementation in practice.  Successfully implemented, 4S’s Event Ethics Policy will encourage all event participants to be newly proactive in making 4S events venues for lively exchange and deliberation about complex, often politically fraught issues among diversely positioned event participants. 

Committee Members and Points of Contact in New Orleans

During 4S’s 2019 annual meeting in New Orleans, the committees described above will include the following people: 

Event Ombuds Committee:  Alli Morgan, Danica Loucks,  Kim Fortun 

Event Ethics: VIvian Choi, Laura Foster, Joan Donovan, Kim Fortun 

4S Council Ethics Committee:  Kim Fortun, Joan Fujimura

The 4S Events Ethics Policy in Action 

The goal of the 4S Event Ethics Policy is to proactively support inclusive behavior at 4S events.  To accomplish this, the policy needs to enroll all event participants in the shared work of making 4S events venues for presentation of complex research findings, heated discussion and social networking among diverse event participants. A key strength of 4S is its diversity and the Event Ethics Policy is intended to empower this. 

4S is not without problems in its own operations and differences of perspective on how 4S events should be conducted should be expected.  To advance best-practice in inclusivity at 4S events, the Events Ethics Policy lays out the following process for dealing with perceived problems: 

In conference sessions, the lead responsibility for creating an inclusive environment rests with the session chair.  Problems can also be reported to the Events Ombuds Committee by email or phone; once they arrive at a session, members of this committee have the authority to ask participants in a session to leave the session in order to immediately  address what they deem to be inappropriate behavior. All session chairs also have this authority. As stated above, 4S asks all event participants to comply with requests to leave by either the session chair or a member of the Event Ombuds Committee.  Compliance with such a request does not signal agreement with the sanction but concurrence with the spirit of 4S’s Event Ethics Policy.  As described below, all concerns about event ethics — including perceptions of over-impemetin of the 4S Event Ethics Policy– can be reported by email to the Event Ombuds COmmittee, to be passed on to 4S Council.  As noted previously, the policy is intended to produce documentation that can help solve problems while extending the reflexivity of 4S as an organization. If the person asked to leave a session doesn’t comply, hotel security should be called.  Note that a member of the Event Ombuds Committee will come to a session if called but will need time to get there. Emails to the Event Ethics Committee (xxx) should have ASAP [as soon as possible] in the subject link if immediate assistance is needed.  Feedback for later consideration can be sent to the same email address during and for two weeks following the conference. 

Between conference sessions or at plenary sessions, receptions or other conference events, event participants can report problems can be reported by email or phone to the Events Ombuds Committee, members of which have the authority to ask people to leave if they deem their behavior inappropriate (after being asked to change it). 

If event participant experiences problems away from the main conference site or outside formally scheduled activities, they can still contact the Ombuds Committee for assistance. Such feedback may not be available until the following day.  As noted above, in an emergency, 911 should be called.  

If event participants think that the Event Ethics Policy has been inappropriately implemented, feedback can be emailed to the Event Ethics Committee, who will pass on to the 4S Ethics Committee for consideration.  As stated above, all event participants are connected to comply with requests to leave a session of conference activity, recoinging that complying with such a request does not signal agreement with the sanction but concurrence with the spirit of 4S’s Event Ethics Policy.

After a 4S event ends, both the Ombuds Committee and the Event Ethics Committee will submit reports to the 4S Council Ethics Committee, which will be responsible for 1) updating the Event Ethics policy to reflect lessons learned 2) document  recommends for future 4S events planning 3) deciding if behavior reported at a 4S events should be further investigated, possibly leading to a restriction on a person’s participation in 4S.  

The Society for Social Studies of Science Event Ethics Policy

The Society for Social Studies of Science, representing its members, convenes and endorses events (in person and online) intended to provide opportunities for participants to share research, learn, network, and converse with colleagues in environments of mutual respect.  All participants in these events are entitled to experiences that are free from harassment, bullying, and intimidation. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment, such as unwelcome sexual advances or other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature.  Harassment also includes behaviors such as stalking, bullying, hostility or abuse based on age, race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, religion, language, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, disability, health conditions, socioeconomic status, marital status, domestic status, or parental status.  Harassment may consist of a single intense and severe act or of multiple persistent or pervasive acts which are demeaning, abusive, offensive, or create a hostile environment.  Harassment may also include circulation of written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility toward an individual or group. Such conduct is harmful, disrespectful and unprofessional, and won’t be allowed.   All participants in 4S events — — including main, ancillary and social events — are expected to abide by this events ethics policy. The policy will be overseen and enforced by an Event Ethics Committee  to be made up of conference program committee members and members of the 4S Council (and its Professional Ethics Committee). An Events Ethics committee must be appointed for every 4S or 4S endorsed event. 

If participants in 4S events experience and or witness inappropriate behavior, they are encouraged to report the behavior to an appointed Event Ombuds Committee.   Reports of inappropriate behavior will be considered confidential. Personal identity will only be shared with the Events Ethics Committee and the 4S’s Council Ethics Committee, with all members having agreed to strict non-disclosure of sensitive information.  Details on the event without personal identifiers will be shared with 4S Council so that they are informed and can be proactive in updating relevant 4S policy as needed. 

If an Event Ethics Committee determines that reported behavior at an event 4S is responsible for is a violation of this policy they are authorized to issue a reprimand in person or by email, barring the person from further participation in the event if this seems warranted. Notification of a participation-bar will be sent by email.  If the person returns to the event after notification of the policy violation and subsequent bar, the Committee is authorized to request help from event security.  

If warranted, an Event Ethics Committee can request a review of the case by the 4S Ethics Committee, which can issue its own reprimand and if necessary bar from future 4S events. Notification from this committee will be sent by email and recorded by the 4S Secretary. 

4S does not seek to limit scholarly inquiry and debate.  The purpose of this policy is to protect scholarly inquiry and debate through a policy and process that discourages personal harassment, prejudice, and aggression. 

With this policy, we also hope to encourage proactively inclusive behavior at 4S events.  Recognizing the way professional events tend to reproduce structural and implicit forms of exclusion, we ask that 4S events organizers and participants proactively work to make space for and amplify the voices and contributions of participants who are junior, non-white, non-male, speak first in languages other than English, or are otherwise in marginal or precarious positions. 

 Deliberation in the 4S community about professional ethics and conduct are complicated, dynamic, and continually must address new issues and cases.  Further, behavior-focused policies such as the 4S Event Ethics Policy could have unintended effects. Because of this, the 4S Council will revisit this policy on an annual basis, following each year’s annual meeting, revising the policy as deemed appropriate.  A record of changes and lessons learned will be recorded and kept with the policy as a way to support the 4S community’s capacity to deal well with professional ethics. 

Approved by the 4S Council, 4 February 2019

This statement borrows from statements approved by other scholarly societies, including the Society for Classical Studies Meeting Harassment Statement, and the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting Anti-Harassment Policy