ASA Code of Ethics

Every astronomer is a citizen of the scientific community. We all share responsibility for the welfare of this community. We should all work to provide an environment that encourages the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas in all disciplines, not merely astronomy. We should act ethically in the conduct of our research, in teaching and education and in relations with both other members of the scientific community and members of the public. We have a special responsibility to train our students and young researchers in ethical conduct.

The Astronomical Society of Australia provides the following general code of ethics for its members and others in the astronomical community. This code uses (with permission) wording from the corresponding statement by the American Astronomical Society.

See also the Code of Conduct for all Activities of the ASA.

Conduct toward others

Everyone encountered in one's professional life should be treated with respect at all times. Members of the Society should promote equality of opportunity and treatment for all their colleagues, regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities, or any other reason not related to scientific merit.

More senior members of the society, especially research supervisors, have a special responsibility to facilitate the research, educational and professional development of students and staff. This includes providing safe, supportive working environments, appropriate opportunities, fair compensation and appropriate acknowledgment of their contribution to any research results. In addition, supervisors should encourage the timely advance of graduate students and young professionals in their career aspirations.

It is also a key responsibility of senior members of our society to inform more junior members of these ethical issues and of institutional and government guidelines, policies and procedures related to the oversight and maintenance of ethical standards for research and its conduct.


It is an ethical responsibility to record and maintain research results in a form that allows review, analysis, and reproduction by others. It is a responsibility of researchers involved in publicly-supported studies to make results available in a timely manner.

Fabrication of data or selective reporting of data with the intent to mislead or deceive is unethical and unacceptable, as is the appropriation of data or research results from others without permission and attribution.

It should be recognised that honest error is an integral part of the scientific enterprise. It is not unethical to be wrong, provided that errors are promptly acknowledged and corrected when they are detected.

Publication and Authorship practices

Anyone who has made significant contributions to a work intended for publication should be offered the opportunity to be listed as authors. This includes anyone who has contributed intellectually to the inception, design, execution, or interpretation of the research. Anyone who has contributed in any significant way to a study should be appropriately acknowledged. The sources of financial support for any project should be acknowledged/disclosed.

Proper acknowledgement of the work of others must always be given and complete referencing is an essential part of any astronomical research publication. Authors have an obligation to their colleagues and the scientific community to include a set of references that communicates the precedents, sources, and context of the reported work. Deliberate omission of a pertinent author or reference is unacceptable. Data provided by others must be cited appropriately, even if obtained from a public database.

Plagiarism is the presentation of others' words, ideas or scientific results as if they were one's own. It is unethical behaviour and is never acceptable. Equally unacceptable is the practice of self plagiarism whereby a person publishes virtually identical papers in more than one refereed journal.

All collaborators share responsibility for any paper they coauthor and every coauthor should have the opportunity to review a manuscript before its submission. All authors are therefore responsible for providing prompt corrections or retractions if errors are found in published works.

The ASA's refereed journal, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia has its own statement reflecting these ideas in a statement on 'Publishing Ethics' in it's Instructions for Contributors.

Peer Review

Peer review is an essential component of many aspects of the scientific process such as evaluating research proposals, publishing research results and evaluating colleagues for career advancement.

Peer review can serve its intended function only if the members of the scientific community are prepared to provide thorough, fair and objective evaluations based on requisite expertise. Although peer review can be difficult and time-consuming, scientists have an obligation to participate in the process. Research managers have a duty to allow their staff time to participate in the referee process and to recognize such activity in performance assessment.

Reviewers should disclose conflicts of interest resulting from direct competitive, collaborative, or other relationships with those they are reviewing and excuse themselves from cases where such conflicts preclude an objective evaluation. It is unethical to seek to gain an advantage by means of reviewing the work of others.

Privileged information or ideas that are obtained through peer review must be kept confidential and not used for competitive gain.

Conflicts of Interest

Many activities of scientists and educators have the potential for a conflict of interest. This is discussed in the ASA general guidelines on Conflict of Interest. Any professional relationship or action that may either be or be perceived as a conflict of interest should be fully disclosed. If a conflict of interest cannot be properly managed, the activity should be avoided or discontinued.

Action against a Member who violates the Code of Ethics

The Council may expel from the Society any member who violates this Code of Ethics only after that member has been given an opportunity to reply to a written statement of the Council's intention and reasons, in accordance with Clause 13 of the Society's Constitution.

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