Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct for RAS Members and Procedure for Investigating Alleged Breaches of the Code (approved by Council in 2016)


1. Preamble

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.

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.


2. Acceptance of the Code of Conduct

By becoming or continuing to be a member of the Society you are bound to the Code of Conduct for RAS Members and the Universal Ethical Code of Scientists.


3. Objectivity, Integrity and Selflessness

Members must at all times endeavour to act in the best interests of the Society. Members should exercise their decision-making, influencing and representational roles related to the Society on the basis of fact, recognised constitutional procedure and sound professional judgment.


4. Member Conduct

Members must observe the provisions of the Charter and Byelaws of the Society and must conduct their activities honourably, with integrity and to the highest professional standards. They should act to preserve the interests of the Society in its efforts to further Astronomy and Geophysics and other closely related subjects.

a) Professional Conduct

In their scientific work Members are bound by the Universal Ethical Code of Scientists, which is widely adopted by scientific societies in the UK.

b) General conduct

Members must endeavour to promote the overall best interests of astronomy and geophysics, to inspire others to take pride in the Society’s achievements and to work within its ethos and constitutional provisions.

They must conduct themselves in a manner which does not damage or undermine the reputation of the Society or of its staff individually or collectively, 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.

They should not engage in activities that undermine the effectiveness of the Society, or of those elected or appointed to further such effectiveness through the proper exercise of their judgement or conduct of their duties. Members should remain publicly respectful of other Members and of the staff of the Society. Members who have concerns about the conduct of another Member, or of a Society employee, must raise their concerns constructively and objectively in accordance with the procedure set out below.

The Society’s policy on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, which was approved by Council in July 2015, applies to all Members.

Members must at all times refrain from actions or statements towards Members, prospective Members, staff and visitors that might be construed as discrimination on the basis of their 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 or age (all of which are considered as 'protected characteristics' by law) and also from discrimination based upon other features such as physical appearance and level of intellectual/professional achievement.

Harassment, victimisation and bullying are prohibited. Harassment is unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating someone's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Victimisation is less favourable treatment of someone who has complained or given information about discrimination or harassment, or supported someone else's complaint.

c) Conduct at meetings

Whilst at meetings organised or sponsored by the Society, whether in the Society’s own premises or elsewhere, Members are bound by the Code of Conduct for Attendees of RAS Meetings/Events in Burlington House and elsewhere.

d) Society property

Members must respect the property of the Society, such as the premises and library books. Members must follow the regulations for the operation of the library.

e) Resolution of problems

Members should use their best endeavours to work with the Executive Director (or President if the Executive Director is involved personally) to resolve informally any complaint about the conduct of a Member or any actual or potential dispute with another Member or a member of the Society’s staff.

If the problem cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties by such informal means, or if the matter is so serious as to risk compromising the overall stability, reputation or probity of the Society, the complaint or dispute shall be resolved by means of the formal procedure set out below.


5. 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.


6. Investigation

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.


7. Decision

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.


8. Expulsion

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.


9. Suspension

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.


10. Appeals procedure

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 A. M. Cruise 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

Participants/attendees should:

  • 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.