A code of conduct for scientists developed by the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network*
We welcome its application and development in other communities of practice
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.
- Respect people, regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, colour. This includes written, verbal, and physical interactions.
- Respect nature by promoting sustainable use of natural resources and protection of biodiversity.
- Always evaluate scientific data and arguments based on objective evidence.
- Strive to make science and data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR).
- Display integrity, honesty, impartiality, and objectivity in your work and interactions with others.
- Strive for critical thinking and intellectual rigour in your work, including citation of literature and interpretation of evidence.
- Engage in dialogue constructively and criticise politely.
- Assume that professional debate reflects legitimate differences in interpretation and do not personalise professional debate or act in malice.
- Be mindful and considerate of others. Do not presume to know the pressures facing them when they are unresponsive, impolite, impatient, or not cooperative.
- Be sensitive to confidentiality and cultural sensitivities.
- Acknowledge errors in professional practice, including in publications, data collection, and interpretation of analyses.
- Oppose presentation and spread of misinformation, that is information that ignores, misrepresents, or selectively presents objective evidence.
- Declare potential conflicts of interest.
- 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.
- Do not use an argument of past practice to justify what is no longer considered ethical.
- Respect the spirit of laws, regulations, and international conventions.
- Do not present oneself as an expert if you are not. Instead, admit lack of expertise and only respond accordingly.
- Foster the ideals in this Code of Conduct in others, including staff you supervise or hire.
- Respect nature and people in fieldwork. Minimise disturbance to animals and damage to habitats in your work.
- Prioritize non-invasive and non-destructive sampling methods where possible, even if these may be more expensive and time-consuming.
- Take care to avoid accidentally spreading species, including microbial pathogens.
- Remove all scientific equipment and materials from the study site after fieldwork is complete.
- Obtain permission from landowners, local communities including indigenous people, and/or other relevant authorities before fieldwork, in taking field observations and samples.
- 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.
- Minimise stress to living organisms in laboratory and field observations and experiments. Ideally, use methods that animals do not notice.
- 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.
- Publish research findings and data in a timely manner to contribute to scientific knowledge, and enable transparency, reproducibility and replicability of the work.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Never falsify research findings, plagiarise the work of others, or condone such misconduct by others.
- Acknowledge appropriately those people who have helped your research, including funding sources, and cite prior work from which your work has benefited.
- Follow the Vancouver Guidelines for authorship of scholarly research papers (Anon. 2019a).
*first drafted by Mark Costello, Frank Muller-Karger and Emmett Duffy.
Albert, T. and Wager, E., 2010. How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers. The COPE Report 2003 http://publicationethics.org/files/2003pdf12_0.pdf
Anonymous. 2007. WMO Code of Ethics. World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Anonymous. 2008. OSPAR Code of conduct for responsible marine research in the deep seas and high seas of the OSPAR maritime area. OSPAR Commission 08/24/1.
Anonymous. 2019. Code of Professional Standards and Ethics. Royal Society of New Zealand.
Anonymous. 2019a. Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals Updated December 2019. http://www.icmje.org/icmje-recommendations.pdf
Anonymous. 2020. Code of Ethics for the Ecological Society of America. Ecological Society of America.
Barbier, M., Reitz, A., Pabortsava, K., Wölfl, A.C., Hahn, T. and Whoriskey, F., 2018. Ethical recommendations for ocean observation. Advances in Geosciences, 45, pp.343-361.
Bateson, P., 1991. Assessment of pain in animals. Animal Behaviour 42 (5), 827-839.
Bunting, D. and Coleman, R.A., 2014. Ethical consideration in invasion ecology: A marine perspective. Ecological Management & Restoration, 15(1), pp.64-70.
Cattet, M. R. 2013. Falling through the cracks: Shortcomings in the collaboration between biologists and veterinarians and their consequences for wildlife. ILAR Journal, 54(1), 33-40.
Conour, L. A., Murray, K. A., & Brown, M. J. (2006). Preparation of animals for research—issues to consider for rodents and rabbits. ILAR journal, 47(4), 283-293.
Cooke, S. J., Nguyen, V. M., Murchie, K. J., Thiem, J. D., Donaldson, M. R., Hinch, S. G., … & Fisk, A. (2013). To tag or not to tag: animal welfare, conservation, and stakeholder considerations in fish tracking studies that use electronic tags. Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, 16(4), 352-374.
Costello MJ, Beard KH, Corlett RT, Cumming G, Devictor V, Loyola R, Maas B, Miller-Rushing AJ, Pakeman R, Primack RB. 2016. Field work ethics in biological research. Biological Conservation 203, 268-271. [This article was highlighted in an article on Retraction Watch]
Costello MJ, Wieczorek J. 2014. Best practice for biodiversity data management and publication. Biological Conservation, 173, 68-73.
Craig-Henderson K. 2020. I’ve been there. Fighting stereotypes in the world of science. National Science Foundation, Science Matters.
Crozier, G.K.D. and Schulte-Hostedde, A.I., 2015. Towards improving the ethics of ecological research. Science and engineering ethics 21 (3), 577-594.
Cuthill, I., 1991. Field experiments in animal behaviour: methods and ethics. Animal Behaviour 42 (6), 1007-1014.
Dawkins, M.S. and Gosling, M., 1992. Ethics in research on animal behaviour. Academic Press, 64 pp.
Deem, S.L. Karesh, W.B. & Weisman, W. 2001. Putting theory into practice: wildlife health in conservation. Conservation Biology 15, 1224-1233.
Donaldson, M. R., Raby, G. D., Nguyen, V. N., Hinch, S. G., Patterson, D. A., Farrell, A. P., … & McConnachie, S. H. (2013). Evaluation of a simple technique for recovering fish from capture stress: integrating physiology, biotelemetry, and social science to solve a conservation problem. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 70(1), 90-100.
Ehrlich, P.R., 2002. Human natures, nature conservation, and environmental ethics: Cultural evolution is required, in both the scientific community and the public at large, to improve significantly the now inadequate response of society to the human predicament. BioScience, 52(1), pp.31-43.
Farnsworth, E.J. & Rosovsky, J. (1993) The ethics of ecological field experimentation. Conservation Biology 7, 463-472.
Fuchs, B. A., & Macrina, F. L. (2005). Ethics and the scientist; in: Scientific integrity: Text and cases in responsible conduct of research, 19-38. – 3rd ed. American Society of Microbiology Press, Washington, D.C
Gaidet, N., Dodman, T., Caron, A., Balança, G., Desvaux, S., Goutard, F., Cattoli, G., Lamarque, F., Hagemeijer, W. and Monicat, F., 2007. Avian influenza viruses in water birds in Africa. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 13(4), p.626.
Gillespie, A. 2014. International environmental law, policy, and ethics. OUP Oxford.
Huntingford, F.A., 1984. Some ethical issues raised by studies of predation and aggression. Animal Behaviour, 32(1), pp.210-215.
Huntingford, F.A., Adams, C., Braithwaite, V.A., Kadri, S., Pottinger, T.G., Sandøe, P. and Turnbull, J.F., 2006. Current issues in fish welfare. Journal of fish biology, 68(2), pp.332-372.
Ip, H.S., Flint, P.L., Franson, J.C., Dusek, R.J., Derksen, D.V., Gill, R.E., Ely, C.R., Pearce, J.M., Lanctot, R.B., Matsuoka, S.M. and Irons, D.B., 2008. Prevalence of influenza A viruses in wild migratory birds in Alaska: patterns of variation in detection at a crossroads of intercontinental flyways. Virology Journal, 5(1), p.1.
Jax, K., Barton, D. N., Chan, K. M., de Groot, R., Doyle, U., Eser, U., … & Haines-Young, R. (2013). Ecosystem services and ethics. Ecological Economics, 93, 260-268.
Kinne, O., 1997. Ethics and eco-ethics. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 153, pp.1-3.
Langin K. 2020. ‘A time of reckoning.’ How scientists confronted anti-Black racism and built community in 2020. Science, doi:10.1126/science.caredit.abg2701.
Marsh, H. and Kenchington, R., 2004. The role of ethics in experimental marine biology and ecology. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 300(1), 5-14.
Marsh, H., & Eros, C. M. 1999. Ethics of field research: Do journals set the standard? Science and Engineering Ethics, 5(3), 375-382.
McClanahan, T.R., 1990. Are conservationists fish bigots? BioScience 40(1), 2-2.
Meek, P. D., Ballard, G. A., Fleming, P. J., Schaefer, M., Williams, W., & Falzon, G. (2014). Camera traps can be heard and seen by animals. PloS One, 9(10), e110832.
Minteer, B.A. and Collins, J.P. 2005b. Why we need an “ecological ethics” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 332-337.
Minteer, B.A. and Collins, J.P., 2005a. Ecological ethics: Building a new tool kit for ecologists and biodiversity managers. Conservation Biology 19(6), 1803-1812.
Minteer, B.A., Collins, J.P., Love, K.E., and Puschendorf, R. 2014. Avoiding (re)extinction. Science 344: 260-261.
Moher, D., Bouter, L., Kleinert, S., Glasziou, P., Sham, M.H., Barbour, V., Coriat, A.M., Foeger, N. and Dirnagl, U., 2020. The Hong Kong Principles for assessing researchers: Fostering research integrity. PLoS Biology, 18(7), p.e3000737.
Morris V, White L, Fuentes JD, Atchison CL, Smythe WF, Burt M, Williams L, Tripati A, Demoz BB, Armstrong RA. 2020. A Call to Action for an Anti-Racist Science Community from Geoscientists of Color: Listen, Act, Lead. https://notimeforsilence.org/
Parris, K.M., McCall, S.C., McCarthy, M.A., Minteer, B.A., Steele, K., Bekessy, S. and Medvecky, F., 2010. Assessing ethical trade‐offs in ecological field studies. Journal of Applied Ecology 47(1), 227-234.
Paruzel-Czachura, M., Baran, L. and Spendel, Z., 2020. Publish or be ethical? Publishing pressure and scientific misconduct in research. Research Ethics, p.1747016120980562.
Phang, S.M. and Chu, W.L., 2015. Potential risks of algae bioenergy feedstocks. In: Quinn LD et al. (editors), Bioenergy and Biological Invasions. Ecological, Agronomic, and Policy Perspectives on Minimizing Risk. CAB International, 35-51.
Phillott AD, Speare R, Hines HB, Skerratt LF, Meyer E, McDonald KR, Cashins SD, Mendez D, Berger L. 2010. Minimising exposure of amphibians to pathogens during field studies. Dis Aquat Organ 92:175– 185.
Pierce, S.J., Méndez‐Jiménez, A., Collins, K., Rosero‐Caicedo, M. and Monadjem, A., 2010. Developing a code of conduct for whale shark interactions in Mozambique. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 20(7), pp.782-788.
Popp, A. L., C. A. Hall, and Y. A. Yılmaz (2020), How to combat bullying and discrimination in the geosciences. Eos 101, https://doi.org/10.1029/2020EO151914.
Powell, R. A., & Proulx, G. (2003). Trapping and marking terrestrial mammals for research: integrating ethics, performance criteria, techniques, and common sense. Ilar Journal, 44(4), 259-276.
Putman, R.J., 1995. Ethical considerations and animal welfare in ecological field studies. Biodiversity & Conservation, 4(8), pp.903-915.
Rocha, L.A., Aleixo, A., Allen, G. et al. 2014. Specimen collection: an essential tool. Science 344: 814-815.
Russello, M.A., Waterhouse, M.D., Etter, P.D. and Johnson, E.A., 2015. From promise to practice: pairing non-invasive sampling with genomics in conservation. PeerJ 3, e1106.
SCB Board of Governors. 2004. Code of Ethics. Society of Conservation Biology.
Sloman, K.A., Bouyoucos, I.A., Brooks, E.J. and Sneddon, L.U., 2019. Ethical considerations in fish research. Journal of fish biology, 94(4), pp.556-577.
Sneddon, L.U. 2015. Pain in aquatic animals. Journal of Experimental Biology 218: 967-976.
Soulsbury, C.D., Gray, H.E., Smith, L.M., Braithwaite, V., Cotter, S.C., Elwood, R.W., Wilkinson, A. and Collins, L.M., 2020. The welfare and ethics of research involving wild animals: A primer. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 11(10), pp.1164-1181.
Thomsen, P.F. and Willerslev, E., 2015. Environmental DNA–an emerging tool in conservation for monitoring past and present biodiversity. Biological Conservation 183, 4-18.
Tijdink, J.K., Verbeke, R. and Smulders, Y.M., 2014. Publication pressure and scientific misconduct in medical scientists. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 9(5), 64-71.
Tuttle, N.C., Beard, K.H., and Al-Chokhachy, R. 2008. Aerially applied citric acid reduces the density of an invasive frog in Hawaii, USA. Wildlife Research 35: 676-683.
US National Committee of the Census of Marine Life. 2005? Code of conduct for scientific collections. Unpublished.
Vas, E., Lescroël, A., Duriez, O., Boguszewski, G., & Grémillet, D. (2015). Approaching birds with drones: first experiments and ethical guidelines. Biology Letters, 11(2), 20140754.
Verlaan, P.A., 2007. Experimental activities that intentionally perturb the marine environment: implications for the marine environmental protection and marine scientific research provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Marine Policy, 31(2), pp.210-216.
Wallace, M. C., & Curzer, H. J. (2013). Moral problems and perspectives for ecological field research. ILAR Journal, 54(1), 3-4.
Winker, K., Reed, J. M., Escalante, P., Askins, R. A., Cicero, C., Hough, G. E., & Bates, J. (2010). The importance, effects, and ethics of bird collecting. The Auk, 127(3), 690-695.
Woods KD. 2000. Ecological Society of America’s Code of Professional Ethics. Bulletin of Ecological Society of America 272-273.
 Approved by Steering Committee of the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network, February 2020