This Meeting Code of Conduct Policy1 (“Policy”) is intended to set clear expectations of professional behavior of individuals (“Participants”) participating in an American Ornithological Society (“Society”) meeting or event and their related activities (“Event”), whether virtual or in person, to ensure ethical, professional, and inclusive conduct that provides a safe and welcoming environment for an open exchange of ideas. This Policy applies to all Participants of Society events which includes organizers, attendees, speakers, volunteers, sponsors, exhibitors, partners, award recipients, guests, staff, outside contractors, and service providers.

AOS welcomes all Participants and celebrates diversity in all its forms. The Society is dedicated to providing an inclusive environment that is collaborative, supportive, and engaging for everyone involved, and that is free of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The Society expects all Participants to play a role in our mission by being respectful and considerate of each other, providing supportive critique, and embracing the multitude of opinions offered by Participants engaged in any Society Event.

This Policy applies during the Event period, meaning: (1) the day(s) on which an in-person Event is occurring, (2) the period of set-up and break-down of facilities and equipment for those Participants that are involved in such activities, (3) the day(s) on which a virtual Society Event occurs, and (4) while a Policy violation is being evaluated or investigated following the Event. AOS events are intended to foster effective, open and honest communications and to promote equality of opportunity and treatment for all Participants. It is imperative that Participants conduct themselves professionally toward all, engage in courteous and respectful interactions, and recognize the intellectual property of others participating in Society events. All forms of communication among Participants fall under the jurisdiction of this Policy. These include public and private communications between Participants during the Event period, including but not limited to, face-to-face interactions, in virtual breakout rooms, via electronic chat functions (e.g., Q/A box, Zoom Chat), emails, texts (including via platforms such as Signal, Slack, and WhatsApp), social media (see the AOS Social Media and Commenting Policy), phone calls, and other forms of written, verbal, and non-verbal (including visual) communication. In addition, conduct relating to communications, as described above, occurring after the Event, but pertaining to content from the Event and/or where contact information of a Participant was procured during the Event may also fall under the purview of this Policy or the AOS Code of Conduct and Ethics and may be reported to the Society as described below.

Expectations of Participants

As outlined in the AOS Code of Conduct and Ethics, discrimination, harassment, and bullying by and between Participants will not be tolerated. Participants asked to stop such behavior(s) by anyone are expected to comply immediately, regardless of their intent.

Discrimination is the treatment of an individual or group based on gender, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, age, marital status, pregnancy or parental status, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability status, physical appearance, socioeconomic level, or other protected statuses that results in unfair, unequal, or differential professional opportunities or benefits.

Harassment is any form of discrimination that is unwelcome or unwanted, or persistent offensive, denigrating, or hostile behavior that is directed toward a person or group based on gender, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, age, marital status, pregnancy or parental status, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability status, physical appearance, socioeconomic level, or other protected statuses.  Harassment can be manifested by, but not limited to, verbal or written abuse such as slurs, epithets, denigrating jokes, abusive direct messaging online, or negative stereotyping; and by non-verbal behavior such as obscene gestures or the display of denigrating or insulting written or graphic materials.

Sexual harassment is a particular type of harassment that includes unwelcome conduct such as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or dates, remarks about an individual’s appearance, discussions, remarks or jokes of a sexual nature, and/or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can also include non-verbal behavior such as unwanted physical contact or violations of personal space that are of a sexual nature. Behavior involving “quid pro quo” offers of professional opportunities or the creation of a hostile professional environment are clear examples of sexual harassment.  

Bullying is unwelcome or unreasonable verbal or non-verbal behavior by an individual or group that demeans, intimidates, humiliates, abuses, or sabotages the work of people and causes physical or emotional harm in a professional environment. Bullying behavior is most often aggressive, persistent, and part of a pattern, but it can also occur as a single egregious incident. Bullying often involves abuse of professional or supervisory authority or position.Exercising appropriate authority, directing the work of others pursuant to their job responsibilities, an honest error, and respectful scientific debate over differences of opinion are not considered bullying behavior.

In the context of communications that take place during an Event presentation and the discussions among and between Participants that follow, communications should be focused on the Event topic at hand and all Participants must be able and welcome to equitably and effectively participate. Participants may courteously and respectfully express an opinion, raise research or describe an experience (“articulation”) that is at odds with the opinions of others. Such an articulation must be part of an on-point discussion of the topic at hand and offered in a manner that does not interfere with others’ reasonable ability to participate fully. In the pursuit of science, individuals have the freedom to disagree with or dispute wider community-held positions.

By registering for and attending this Event, Participants agree to allow the Society to use their photo or a video of them in any Society publication, promotion, on the website or social media pages. Society virtual events will be recorded by the Society and the content will be made available to Participants through a period of time following the Event. Only the Society may (a) take/make or distribute (in any medium) audio- or visual-recordings of the Event or Participants or (b) distribute them (via social media or other means). Other recording of Society Events is strictly prohibited. This includes recording events, in whole or in part, via videos and/or making audio recordings. Participants wishing to share information from the Event and/or post screen shots via social media, whether of their own material or that of others, must adhere to the platform’s stated rules and policies.

Participants are required to disclose on the registration form whether they are currently, or have been on-leave, discharged, or subject to any restrictions and/or restorative remedies in their activities related to an allegation, investigation, and/or finding of misconduct in their professional or personal life. Participants also must disclose whether, in the last five (5) years, they have been discharged or were forced to resign from work or other activities due to an allegation or finding of misconduct.Registrants who fail to disclose incidents as described above are in violation of this Policy. The Society will review disclosures on a case-by-case basis and may determine in its discretion whether, due to the nature and circumstances of the allegation or finding, the person’s presence is likely to result in a safety concern, or to be disruptive or burdensome to the Event or other Participants’ reasonable ability to fully participate. If so, the Society may, in its discretion, deny participation to the person.The Society and the meeting organizers prioritize preventative safety and non-disruption measures in the interest of many Participants, over the interests of one or a few, if the two must be weighed.

Reporting an Incident

Any Participant who becomes aware of, experiences, or witnesses another Participant potentially in breach of this Policy may file a written Complaint to the AOS Safe Meeting Committee at this email address:, or through this Google form. The AOS Safe Meeting Committee is a group of individuals appointed by the AOS Professional Ethics Committee for the purpose of evaluating, investigating, and where possible, resolving conduct-related issues. The Safe Meeting Committee is dedicated to treating every reported incident with respect, sensitivity, and dignity.

AOS Safe Meeting Committee 2024

Jennifer Walsh, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Co-chair
Jeanne Fair, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Co-chair
Jenn Houtz, Allegheny College

Ex officio members
Judith Scarl, AOS Executive Director and CEO
Chris Anne Handel, AOS Communications and Marketing Manager

Complaints made on-line before, during, and after the Event will be responded to swiftly. Participants preferring to submit a question, concern, or their written Complaint to an individual member of the committee should include the committee member’s name in the subject line (e.g., ATTN: Name).

Guidance on reporting violations of the Policy and the process for evaluating and handling written Complaints are outlined in detail in the AOS Code of Conduct and Ethics. Before reporting a Complaint, a Participant may ask the AOS Safe Meeting Committee up front about the options for resolution of certain types of complaints and the disclosures that may be necessary to pursue them, if this information is desired.

The AOS Safe Meeting Committee will maintain confidentiality during the investigative process to the extent possible as long as the rights of others are not compromised and subject to the ability to conduct an appropriate investigation.

AOS and its representatives may make disclosures about a pending Complaint, where in its judgment and discretion, the interests of safety or law so merit. Therefore, as outlined in the AOS Code of Conduct and Ethics, absolute confidentiality is not guaranteed. All Participants in the investigation are required to respect the confidentiality of the investigatory process and should not make disclosures, except as otherwise required by law or safety, while a Complaint is being reviewed, investigated, and resolved. Failure to do so is a serious violation of this Policy.

Retaliation and Bad Faith Accusations are Prohibited. The Society will not tolerate any form of retaliation against Participants who in good faith file a Complaint or assist in an investigation of reported violations covered by this Policy and will be subject to investigation and the same types of disciplinary action for other forms of misconduct. Retaliation is defined as: punishing or otherwise engaging in differential adverse treatment of someone in response to that person raising a concern about a violation or possible violation of the Policy. Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, any activity that would discourage someone from resisting or reporting misconduct in the future, such as: transfer to a less desirable position or assignment; verbal or physical abuse; increased scrutiny; spreading false rumors; or making the person’s work more difficult. Similarly, bad faith accusations in which there has been intentionally false, frivolous, and/or malicious reporting of violations will not be tolerated. 

For complete information on the Evaluation and Investigation Process and Procedures, determining Disciplinary Action (including and restorative practice and other community-building options), and Appeals, please refer to the AOS Code of Conduct and Ethics.

Demonstrate respect and consideration for all people, and don’t dominate discussion.

Welcome and listen well to others. Make room for and invite a diversity of voices in discussions in the Event and in social media and online platforms of the Event.

Be collaborative. Be mindful not to exert dominance over others. Consider the effect of relationship, position, experience, and privilege power differentials, and other factors to avoid dominance.

Demonstrate that differing perspectives are valued—critique ideas (not people); be courteous and respectful when expressing an opinion.

Report conduct concerns to the Safe Meeting Committee so that concerns can be addressed responsibly and timely.

Respect confidentiality of the identities of any individuals involved in a conduct concern, while it is being reviewed and addressed.

Answer disclosure questions about conduct concerns in a forthright and complete manner (e.g., when registering or during a review of concerns).

If any Participant, leader or facilitator of an online activity/session/event, or any Society official directs you to stop a behavior or comment, immediately comply. After complying, you may raise any questions or concerns to the Safe Meeting Committee.
Intentionally talk over or interrupt others.

Engage in biased, demeaning, intimidating, coercive, bullying, or harassing/hostile written, verbal, or non-verbal (including visual) conduct or commentary, whether seriously or in jest.

Engage in personal attacks.

Comment on personal appearance, seriously or in jest.

Engage in unwanted contact, including harassment and/or bullying.

Retaliate against or disadvantage anyone for reporting a conduct concern or assisting in its resolution, or make bad faith accusations.

Disrupt the meeting or engage in threats of violence or harm of any kind. Do not create/contribute to an unsafe or exclusionary situation.

Invade the personal privacy of individuals. Only the Society may (a) take/make or distribute (in any medium) audio- or visual- recordings of the Event or Participants or (b) distribute them (via social media or other means). Other recording of Society Events is strictly prohibited. This includes recording events, in whole or in part, via videos and/or making audio recordings. Participants wishing to take screen-captures and/or share information from the Event via social media must adhere to the use terms of those platforms.

Approved by AOS Council 18 January 2022.

[1] This policy was adapted from policy recommendations provided by the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM, of which AOS is a member.