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Code of conduct

Code of Conduct for all attendees and staff at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference

Guiding principles

The RGS-IBG Annual Conference is intended to be a space that allows geography, geographers and geographical careers to flourish through respectful, inclusive and equitable treatment of others sharing professional information, knowledge and ideas.

The RGS-IBG Chair of conference and the Trustees and staff of the Society want to promote a positive sense of academic community by asking everyone to:

  • Behave professionally

  • Treat everyone equally and respectfully

  • Listen to others’ views and engage constructively with them

  • Set an example

  • Be committed to helping each other and to be kind

  • Respect the environment and the people around you


We believe that everyone (delegates and staff) has the right to be in a respectful, safer and welcoming environment at the conference.

We are dedicated to providing an inclusive conference experience for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, or language, political or other opinion, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, age, religion or economic class. Discrimination, harassment, bullying and behaviours that are patronising have no place at the conference, or in any professional context, and will not be tolerated.

We require that conference delegates practice:

  • No violence

  • No harassment

  • No discrimination

  • No bullying

  • No condescending behaviour

These all apply to both online and in-person spaces and to both formal and informal spaces in and around the conference, and to electronic forms of communication as well as personal interactions (physical, verbal and non-verbal). Informal spaces include, for example, coffee and lunch breaks during events, dinners, receptions and other similar settings.

This guidance is written specifically for the conference, but these standards and expectations apply in all professional contexts. Please see the Society's code of conduct


Harassment as defined in the UK Equality Act 2010 is unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to, offensive verbal or written comments related to gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race or religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, grooming and boundary-blurring, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Bullying includes, but is not limited to, coercive or overt behaviours towards another conference participant that are threatening, offensive, humiliating, intimidating, malicious or insulting that causes harm to, or negatively impacts upon, the conference experience of that individual(s) or other attendees.

Discrimination, harassment (in any form), and bullying create a hostile environment that reduces the quality, integrity, and pace of the advancement of our discipline by marginalizing individuals and communities. It also damages productivity and career advancement, and prevents the healthy exchange of ideas.

Discrimination, harassment or bullying at, or associated with activities of, the conference is unacceptable, and constitutes serious misconduct under this code of conduct. Such behaviour should be reported and will be addressed with potential consequences for the offender, including but not limited to the sanctions or expulsion described below.

The Society reserves the right to refuse any booking or admission to any event without giving a reason. 


In-person event

If you experience or observe behaviour(s) that contravene(s) this code at the in-person Annual Conference, please identify a member of RGS-IBG staff (blue lanyards) who will direct you to Catherine Souch (a senior member of RGS-IBG staff, referred to hereafter as the Named Person(s)) who will initially fill out a basic report template relating to who was involved, what happened and when. You can ask directly for Catherine Souch, if you prefer not to say to anyone else what has happened. You can also use +44 (0)20 7591 3022; this will work for calls and texts. There is also a monitored inbox ( for reporting issues encountered at the conference (see below for further details).

Delegates reporting any issues will be supported by the Society at the conference and via signposting to appropriate help in their own institutions. 


Online spaces

Each online session will be provided with a Technical Host, who will have been provided with training about how to manage sessions, including how to manage disruptive behaviour. We will also provide training and resources for session chairs too. If you experience or observe behaviour(s) that contravene(s) this code, we encourage you to flag any issues to your session chair or Technical Host during the session wherever possible, using the session’s chat features. You can also contact the main conference team via email (, or use the assigned reporting phone number +44 (0)20 7591 3022.


Reporting any issues – there is a monitored inbox ( for reporting issues encountered at the conference. This will be regularly monitored during the event by a small sub-group of the conference team, including the Named Person(s). Messages will be acknowledged with an automated response outlining key processes, response times, and so on. We will do our best to respond within 24 hours.


Any allegation of discrimination, harassment, bullying or victimisation will be treated seriously, regardless of the seniority of those involved. If the severity of a reported incident/activity warrants it, the police will be notified, in consultation with the reporting party. 

We will follow the principles for investigating alleged misconduct outlined in the UK Research Integrity Office’s guidelines. See further details below.

We will use our discretion in determining how to follow up on reported incidents and whether this can be resolved at the time or needs to be referred to the Code of Conduct panel. The panel will meet and consider any incidents or matters arising as soon as is practically possible; this is likely to be after the conference event.


All allegations will be investigated in confidence. All those who are involved in the investigation of an allegation, including witnesses, representatives and persons providing information, evidence and/or advice, have a duty to maintain confidentiality.

At the initial reporting stage the allegations will be anonymised before they are taken any further to minimise those who know the identities of the person making the allegation (the “Complainant”) and the person(s) who is/are the subject of the complaint (the “Respondent”).

If the process proceeds to a full investigation, it will normally be necessary to disclose the identity of the Complainant as well as other relevant information to the person(s) who is/are the subject of the complaint (the Respondent) and others who will be involved in any subsequent investigation.

Code of Conduct panel

For the conference, the Society has in place a panel, composed of four people (‘the Panel’). The Panel is to be gender balanced, and its role will be to review cases. The members of the Panel are drawn from other senior members of the RGS-IBG staff (two) and the Research and Higher Education Committee (current and past members) (two). Before reviewing any case all members of the Panel would need to verify that there are no conflicts of interest.

The Panel will receive anonymised complaints from the Named Person. They will first determine if the allegations raised are assessed to be mistaken, frivolous, and/or malicious. They will then determine if the complaints are within the scope of the Code of Conduct.

If the allegations are not assessed to be mistaken, frivolous, and/or malicious, the Panel may opt to notify the employer of the Respondent. This option will proceed on a case-by-case basis. The Society reserves the right to refuse any booking or admission to any event without giving a reason. 

If the Panel determines the allegations are not mistaken, frivolous, and/or malicious, and that they fall within the scope of the Code of Conduct, they may progress the case to a full investigation. The Respondent will be notified of the complaint and will be allowed to provide an anonymised response to the allegations. Witness statements may be solicited from the Respondent and Complainant.

The Panel must conclude, based on the evidence, whether allegations of misconduct are: (i) upheld in full, (ii) upheld in part, or (iii) not upheld. The standard of proof used is that of “on the balance of probabilities”. The Panel will recommend if the matter requires disciplinary action, including expulsion from the conference and/or exclusion from future conferences. The Panel can also recommend that the Respondent provides proof of ethics or bias training in less serious cases.

If a complaint is upheld, all Respondents have a right of appeal, which should be directed to the President of the Society. The President would then convene an appropriately balanced Appeal Panel, drawn from the Council and Fellowship, and not containing a member of the original Panel, to review the case under the same conditions as the original Panel. 

A key principle of the procedure is fairness. This means that when anyone is accused of misconduct, that person must be given full details of the allegations in writing, and they must be given the opportunity to respond to allegations raised. They must also be allowed to ask questions, present information in their defence, adduce evidence of witnesses, etc. The Respondent and/or Complainant and any other witnesses may be accompanied by representatives. Also, to ensure fairness, with the exception of the Named Person, an individual may not be a member of both the Panel and the Appeal Panel. The procedure must also seek to preserve confidentiality and not reveal identities of Complainants or Respondents.


If there is cause, our actions may include RGS-IBG event staff issuing warnings and asking a delegate to leave the conference without refund. If appropriate, Society staff have the option of sending the report template to the delegate’s place of employment/study and Head of School.

In many cases of minor to moderate misconduct the Society would normally seek to facilitate training and education and/or arbitration between the Complainant and Respondent. However, in more severe cases sanctions could include suspension or expulsion from the conference and, if appropriate, the Society.*

If complaints are vexatious or malicious, they will be dealt with accordingly.

*Specific actions may include but are not limited to:

  • asking the person to cease the inappropriate behaviour, and warning them that any further reports will result in other sanctions

  • requiring that the person avoid any interaction with, and physical proximity to, another person for the remainder of the event

  • early termination of a talk that violates the policy

  • not publishing the video or slides of a talk that violates the policy

  • not allowing a speaker who violated the policy to give (further) talks at the event

  • immediately ending any event responsibilities or privileges held

  • requiring that the person immediately leave the event and not return

  • blocking the person on social media platforms (for a defined time period)

  • banning the person from future events 

  • publishing an anonymous account of the harassment

  • reporting the incident to the person’s employer

Data protection 

Documents and correspondence relating to any ethics case should be treated with the strictest confidence and neither electronic nor paper copies of any documents should be distributed beyond the Panel, Appeal Panel (if needed), Respondent or Complainant. If the complaint is not upheld, then all documents relating to the complaint will be permanently deleted. If the complaint is upheld, then only the Named Person should retain a copy of the documents.

Review of this policy

The Code of Conduct will be updated each year.

There will opportunity for delegates who do not wish to make formal reports to feedback more general observations on related matters to the Society via a dedicated question on the post-conference online survey.

Each year, the Society will report the numbers of cases referred and their outcomes following each conference.