Code of Conduct for all attendees and staff at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference
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 organisers want to promote a positive sense of academic community by asking everyone to:
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, safe 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 and will not be tolerated.
We ask that conference delegates practice:
These all apply to electronic forms of communication as well as personal interactions (physical, verbal and non-verbal).
Harassment as defined in the 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, 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.
If you experience or observe behaviour(s) that contravene(s) this code at the Annual Conference, please identify a member of RGS-IBG staff (blue lanyards) who will direct you to Catherine Souch or Joe Smith (two senior RGS-IBG staff, referred to hereafter as the Named Person) 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 or Joe Smith, if you prefer not to say to anyone else what has happened.
Delegates reporting any issues will be supported by the Society at the conference and via signposting to appropriate help in their own institutions.
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 (https://ukrio.org/). 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, but fall outside the scope of the Code of Conduct, then the Panel may opt to notify the employer of the Respondent. This option will proceed on a case-by-case basis.
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 will 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. 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 a gender 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. He/she 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.
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. In 2020 we will ask all delegates to click-sign an updated Code of Conduct at the time of registration.
There will opportunity for delegates who do not wish to make formal reports to feedback more general observations on related matters to the RGS-IBG via a dedicated question on the post-conference online survey. Our 2019 survey has now closed. We will use the survey to assess conference conduct via anonymous responses and learn from these, and inform practices, for the 2020 conference.
We will review this policy and conference conduct at the next Research in Higher Education Committee Meeting in October 2019, recognising this as one element in a broader discussion on professional conduct, practice, integrity and ethics.