A code of conduct for scientists developed by the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network

We welcome its application and development in other communities of practice

This Code is now in use by the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, GEO BON.

Excellent, effective science and good citizenship require that scientists hold themselves to a high standard of ethical behaviour. Here we provide general guidelines and expectations for how scientists should behave and practice their profession. All participants in MBON activities are expected to observe these guidelines, but they are intended to apply more generally to scientists at all levels. All participants in the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) of the Group on Earth Observations are expected to follow and promote these guidelines.

Overarching Values

  1. Respect people, regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, colour. This includes written, verbal, and physical interactions.
  2. Respect nature by promoting sustainable use of natural resources and protection of biodiversity.
  3. Always evaluate scientific data and arguments based on objective evidence.
  4. Strive to make science and data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR).


  1. Display integrity, honesty, impartiality, and objectivity in your work and interactions with others.
  2. Strive for critical thinking and intellectual rigour in your work, including citation of literature and interpretation of evidence.
  3. Engage in dialogue constructively and criticise politely.
  4. Assume that professional debate reflects legitimate differences in interpretation and do not personalise professional debate or act in malice.
  5. Be mindful and considerate of others. Do not presume to know the pressures facing them when they are unresponsive, impolite, impatient, or not cooperative.
  6. Be sensitive to confidentiality and cultural sensitivities.
  7. Acknowledge errors in professional practice, including in publications, data collection, and interpretation of analyses.
  8. Oppose presentation and spread of misinformation, that is information that ignores, misrepresents, or selectively presents objective evidence.
  9. Declare potential conflicts of interest.
  10. Support the profession and colleagues by being a good science citizen, contributing as an editor, peer reviewer, in organising meetings, leading research proposals, mentoring and educating as opportunities arise.
  11. Do not use an argument of past practice to justify what is no longer considered ethical.
  12. Respect the spirit of laws, regulations, and international conventions.
  13. Do not present oneself as an expert if you are not. Instead, admit lack of expertise and only respond accordingly.
  14. Foster the ideals in this Code of Conduct in others, including staff you supervise or hire.


  1. Respect nature and people in fieldwork. Minimise disturbance to animals and damage to habitats in your work.
  2. Prioritize non-invasive and non-destructive sampling methods where possible, even if these may be more expensive and time-consuming.
  3. Take care to avoid accidentally spreading species, including microbial pathogens.
  4. Remove all scientific equipment and materials from the study site after fieldwork is complete.
  5. Obtain permission from landowners, local communities including indigenous people, and/or other relevant authorities before fieldwork, in taking field observations and samples.
  6. If your research involves people, adhere to required institutional guidelines. Make it clear that individuals are free to refuse to participate and explain what effects if any the research may have on them, their community and/or the environment.
  7. Minimise stress to living organisms in laboratory and field observations and experiments. Ideally, use methods that animals do not notice.
  8. Deposit representative samples, including specimens in herbaria and museums, in the appropriate national archives with rigorous metadata and all appropriate permits, so they are maximally accessible to other users.


  1. Publish research findings and data in a timely manner to contribute to scientific knowledge, and enable transparency, reproducibility and replicability of the work.
  2. Respect the intellectual or material property of collaborators and others. Where you use data from third parties, seek their permission to use and release data as appropriate. However, be sensitive to the release of data that may enable identification of individual people, or aid criminal or unethical behaviour, such as the collection of species threatened with extinction, or infringe others patent or copyrights.
  3. If you are aware of research that should be published for reasons to prevent adverse effects on people or wildlife, but may not have been published due to commercial or other interests, then make this recommendation to the research owners.
  4. Support publication of scientific research, as an editor or reviewer, regardless of whether it conflicts with the beliefs or interests of your own, your employers, or group consensus.
  5. Never falsify research findings, plagiarise the work of others, or condone such misconduct by others.
  6. Acknowledge appropriately those people who have helped your research, including funding sources, and cite prior work from which your work has benefited.
  7. Follow the Vancouver Guidelines for authorship of scholarly research papers (Anon. 2019a).
*first drafted by Mark Costello, Frank Muller-Karger and Emmett Duffy.


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[1] Approved by Steering Committee of the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network, February 2020

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