Astronomy society revises harassment policy after outcry


Delegates vote during the IAU 2006 General Assembly.

A vote at the 2006 basic assembly of the International Astronomical Union. Credit: IAU/Robert Hurt (SSC)

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has actually modified questionable modifications to its policy on harassment following a reaction from astronomers, who stated that the policy indicated and safeguarded harassers that the IAU would penalize members for picking not to engage or work with believed or understood transgressors.

The newest variation of the policy, consisted of in the IAU’s standard procedure, is “certainly a substantial enhancement”, states Anna Bull, director of research study at the 1752 Group, a UK-based company that research studies and supporters versus sexual misbehavior. Others state that a few of the phrasing still requires to be clarified.

In 2021, a report by the Royal Astronomical Society in London recommended thatbullying and harassment are rife in astronomy The IAU, based in Paris, is the biggest astronomy association worldwide, with more than 12,000 members throughout 92 nations.

Controversial upgrade

The company revealed the preliminary modifications to its standard procedure in an email to members on 16 August. The code’s area on harassment specified that it was “a kind of harassment to physically or verbally abuse or victimize declared transgressors of IAU’s policies, or if such policies are discovered to have actually been breached, cause (or pressure others to cause) penalties besides those formally approved”. The file included that harassment consisted of “the spoken or physical abuse or discrimination of those who have or work dealt with the declared or approved wrongdoer, merely due to the fact that of their clinical partnership”.

The phrasing stimulated a reaction. Astronomers informed Physics Today and Physics World that the modifications unlocked to harassment accusations for researchers who declined to work with implicated or understood harassers, or to welcome them to conferences. Others flagged that the standard procedure pointed out the partners of harassers, however not the allies of victims.

Harassment “is such an essential subject for all companies to go over and think about”, states IAU president Debra Elmegreen. She states that the executive committee had actually altered the code in action to reports of astronomers being left out from conferences and having documents turned down owing to their clinical cooperations with declared or understood transgressors.

After unfavorable feedback, the IAU re-revised the code. The current variation, completed recently, gets rid of the questionable paragraph, and rather highlights that “any kind of spoken or physical abuse, bullying, or harassment of any private, consisting of plaintiffs, their allies, declared or approved transgressors, or those who deal with or have actually dealt with them, is not permitted”.

The committee based the current modifications on input from the IAU’s working groups on equity and addition and ladies in astronomy, Elmegreen states, in addition to member feedback. When the executive committee made the preliminary modifications, these working groups had actually not been sought advice from.

Fairer policy

Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society, states that much of the society’s members invite the current modification.

Emma Chapman, an astronomer at the University of Nottingham, UK, was a singing critic of the preliminary modifications. After the upgrade she

on X, previously Twitter, that she was “so delighted @IAU_org listened to the useful criticism numerous of us aired concerning their Code of Conduct”.

Bull, who likewise flagged issues in the previous code, states this variation is “fairer”. Astronomy and physics are “most likely at the leading edge of these discussions, while other disciplines have not really gotten to this point”, she includes.

Others stay sceptical. David Hogg, a cosmologist at New York University, argues that the modifications are “still unusual”. “Why list all the classifications?” he asks. “I would choose it if the paragraph were merely: ‘Furthermore, we stress that any kind of spoken or physical harassment, abuse or bullying is not permitted.'”

” I’m still suspicious of what counts as harassment of approved transgressors,” states Arthur Loureiro, an astrophysicist at the Oskar Klein Centre at the University of Stockholm. “Is it spoken abuse or bullying if I inform a trainee to prevent dealing with a recognized bothersome wrongdoer? If I do not accept an approved harasser into a conference I am arranging with IAU financing, is that discrimination?” he asks. “We will need to see how the IAU now enforces these guidelines.”

” It is not spoken abuse or bullying to caution a trainee of a troublesome wrongdoer. Spoken abuse and bullying are actions directed towards somebody,” states Elmegreen. “While we hope that everybody will be dealt with relatively, this is our internal IAU policy. We do not have control over what takes place beyond IAU occasions, and we do not have a say over whom individuals deal with or employ.”[organizing committee]” Regarding guests at IAU occasions, anybody is welcome to sign up for an IAU conference. It depends on the

to choose whom to accept for speakers, considering that there are constantly more who wish to speak than the allocated slots.”(*)


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