I am currently on the first half of my lecture tour on ethics as you are reading this article. By the end of October, I will have traveled to four of the AAPG section meetings: Rocky Mountain, Mid-Continent, Eastern and the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies as the Division of Professional Affairs ethics lecturer. As the DPA section luncheon speaker, my plan is to also present this lecture at both the Pacific and Southwest section meetings next June.
I am making this tour to connect with members across the country, and because of my strong belief that ethics form the core of professionalism and the bedrock of civilization. My earliest exposure to a code of ethics was with the Boy Scouts of America through their Boy Scout Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan and the Outdoor Code. I am certain that some of you experienced the same thing either in the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts through the Girl Scout Promise and Law. The next experience was my University Honor Code. All these oaths, promises, mottos, laws and codes have the common theme of laying out what is considered ethical behavior to be a member and/or attend. Despite that, all organizations are fallible and it is up to its members to hold those who don’t meet their ethical standards accountable.
Ethics and AAPG
The AAPG is no different. When you apply to become a member of AAPG, you agree to follow our code of ethics as laid out in the AAPG Bylaws. Yes, I understand that the AAPG Bylaws are something people only read if they are suffering from a bad case of insomnia, despite being updated frequently by the AAPG House of Delegates. I am sure you will be glad to know that the AAPG Code of Ethics is right up front, starting on line 36 of the AAPG Constitution and Bylaws.
There are five primary themes we agree to abide by listed in our Bylaws. They are:
- General Principles
- Relation of Members to the Public
- Relation of Members to Employers and Clients
- Relation of Members to One Another
- Duty to the Association
Each of these themes have three subheadings that clearly lay out what behavior is expected of a member with regard to the theme. The last theme is “Discipline for Violations of Standards.” This theme tells us we are subject to the disciplinary code if we violate our ethical standard as laid out in the Bylaws. The disciplinary code is four pages long, while our ethical behavior standard is only one page long. I recommend that you never find yourself in a position where you find it necessary to visit that section of the AAPG Bylaws.
The theme “General Principles” states that geology is a profession, and the privilege of professional practice requires professional morality and professional responsibility. It clearly lays out that honesty, integrity, loyalty, fairness, impartiality, candor, fidelity to trust and inviolability of confidence are incumbent upon every member as professional obligations. Next, it tells us that all members, regardless of classification, shall be guided by high standards of business ethics, personal honor and professional conduct.
The theme “Relation of Members to the Public” details what we as members agree to not do. Members shall not make false, misleading or unwarranted statements, representations or claims regarding professional matters, nor shall they engage in false or deceptive advertising. Members shall not permit the publication or use of their reports or maps for any unsound or illegitimate undertakings. This theme concludes with “Members shall not give professional opinions, make reports or give legal testimony without being as thoroughly informed as reasonably required.”
The theme “Relation of Members to Employers and Clients” is one of the more important themes, given the employment instability the industry periodically undergoes. Here we are told that “Members shall disclose to prospective employers or clients the existence of any pertinent competitive or conflicting interests and that Members shall not use or divulge any employer’s or client’s confidential information without their permission and shall avoid conflicts of interest that may arise from information gained during geological investigations.”
The theme “Relation of Members to One Another” is another extremely important topic. We all need to work together in the business of geology. Under this theme, the behaviors on how we treat one another are unmistakably laid out. Members shall not falsely or maliciously attempt to injure the reputation or business of others. Members shall freely recognize the work done by others, avoid plagiarism, and avoid the acceptance of credit due others. Members shall endeavor to cooperate with others in the profession and shall encourage the ethical dissemination of geological knowledge.
The last behavior theme, “Duty to the Association,” focuses on our written agreement to AAPG. Members of the Association shall aid in preventing the election to membership of those who are unqualified or do not meet the standards set forth in this Code of Ethics. “By applying for/or continuing membership in the Association, each member agrees to uphold the ethical standards set forth in this Code of Ethics. Members shall not use AAPG membership to imply endorsement, recommendation, or approval by the Association of specific projects or proposals.”
It may have been a long time since you have read the AAPG Code of Ethics. It’s more likely that many members have never read them. If you have read this article, congratulations! You have reviewed them. My traveling lecture will cover these themes in addition to the AAPG HOD Code of Conduct, which I believe we should adopt even if we are not in the HOD. There will also be ethics scenarios to discuss and interactive audience participation. I will conclude with the statement that all we really have is our reputation. It takes us years to build and seconds to destroy. Don’t let that be you.