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Lack of Codes

Only about a quarter of biology conferences have a code of conduct, according to a new analysis appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

A team of researchers led by the Chicago Botanic Garden's Evelyn Webb Williams compiled a list of 195 biology conferences in the US and Canada and found that only 46 of them had codes of conduct. Overall, the researchers note that large, national conferences were more likely to have codes of conduct than smaller or regional conferences.

Of those conferences with codes of conduct, just over half mentioned sexual misconduct, 83 percent mention identity-based discrimination, and three-quarters included ways to report violations. But as first author Alicia Foxx, a PhD student at Northwestern University, says in a statement, "[w]e didn't find a single conference that hit all the marks."

"They all have room to improve," she adds.

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend their codes of conduct easily accessible, provide examples of misconduct, establish clear means of reporting violations, and develop a transparent reporting system with known consequences for violations.

"Someone might not want to go back to a conference because they had a horrific experience that makes them uncomfortable," adds co-author Taran Lichtenberger, a master's student at Northwestern, in a statement. "Then that hurts their career because they miss out on networking and presenting their work."