International Pulsar Timing Array Code of Conduct and Policy on Inappropriate Behaviour
Version: 1.1 Date: January 2024
Agreed upon by the IPTA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and endorsed by the IPTA Steering Committee.
This code of conduct and policy document is based (and derived) on the United Nations Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Abuse of Power document and applicable to constituent members of the International Pulsar Timing Array project (IPTA - inclusive of all Pulsar Timing Array (PTA) members) and non-PTA members participating in IPTA events. It has been developed by the IPTA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and endorsed by the IPTA Steering Committee (IPTASC). This document has been developed for usage across everyday activities in member PTAs, as well as applicable to events and conferences that are hosted at either PTA or IPTA level, regardless of jurisdiction.
Members of the IPTA collaboration are committed to a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to inappropriate behaviour, and must continually work towards providing workplaces, environments and events free of these issues for the broad range of diverse members in each of the PTAs.
High-Level Policy Statement
As members of the IPTA, we agree:
• All IPTA members have a right to work in a harassment-free and respectful environment
• The IPTA is committed to addressing inappropriate behaviour, including discrimination, harassment, bullying or abuse of authority, by or towards its members
• Members are responsible for conduct that can be construed as discrimination, harassment, bullying or abuse of authority and may be subject to appropriate administrative or disciplinary measures in line with their own PTA practices
• To implement measures to deal with inappropriate behaviour based on the principles of fairness, impartiality, sensitivity and respect
• That everyone who works as part of the IPTA collaboration has a responsibility to sustain a respectful work environment by upholding the highest standards of conduct and applying necessary confidentiality measures
• That the IPTA DEI committee will ensure that adequate resources are available to promote a positive work environment and encourage the prevention of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, empowering PTAs and members through knowledge in making these environments safe and inclusive for all
• Members have the right to choose an informal or formal dispute resolution process
• The IPTA collaboration will provide appropriate mechanisms to prevent or deal with retaliation related to the reporting of allegations of inappropriate behaviour
For the purpose of this Policy, the following definitions will apply:
Acts and conduct that are unwarranted and are reasonably interpreted to be demeaning, offensive and disadvantageous to a member of the IPTA. Defined below are discrimination, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and retaliation - all of which are considered inappropriate behaviour.
Acts, practices, or policies that wrongfully impose a relative disadvantage or deprivation on persons based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. Discrimination may occur on the basis of race, gender identity, sex, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background.
Intentional and aggressive behaviour occurring repeatedly against another where there is a real or perceived power imbalance, and where the victim feels vulnerable and powerless to defend themselves. The unwanted behaviour can be considered hurtful and manifest in physical form, including physical violence, and/or the destruction of property; in verbal form, such as teasing, insulting and threatening; or in relational form, through the spreading of rumours and exclusion from a group.
Bullying usually occurs without provocation, and it constitutes a form of peer violence. Bullying can also involve cyberbullying that results from the posting or sending of electronic messages, including pictures or videos, aimed at harassing, threatening or targeting another person through an electronic channel. Bullying may also occur outside the workplace and/or outside working hours such as at IPTA/PTA conferences, social events and/or electronic platforms like Slack or social media channels.
Any improper and unwelcome conduct that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another. Harassment includes - but is not limited to - words, gestures or actions which tend to annoy, alarm, abuse, demean, intimidate, belittle or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment to another; or that cause an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. It includes harassment based on any grounds such as race, religion, colour, creed, ethnic origin, physical attributes, gender or sexual orientation. It can include a one-off incident or a series of incidents. Harassment may be deliberate, unsolicited and coercive. Harassment may also occur outside the workplace and/or outside working hours such as at IPTA/PTA conferences, and/or social events.
Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another. Sexual harassment may occur when it interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. It can include a one-off incident or a series of incidents. Sexual harassment may be deliberate, unsolicited and coercive. All gender colleagues can either be the victim or offender. Sexual harassment may also occur outside the workplace and/or outside working hours such as at IPTA/PTA conferences, and/or social events.
Abuse of Authority
The improper use of a position of influence, power or authority by an individual against another colleague or group of colleagues. This is particularly serious when an individual misuses their influence, power or authority to negatively influence the career or employment conditions (including - but not limited to - appointment, assignment, contract renewal, performance evaluation or promotion) of another. It can include a one-off incident or a series of incidents. Abuse of authority may also include misuse of power that creates a hostile or offensive work environment, which includes - but is not limited to - the use of intimidation, threats, blackmail or coercion.
Threats or acts of retribution against an individual who raises concerns, makes claims or assists in providing information about inappropriate behaviour. Examples of retaliation may include - but are not limited to - threatening the non-renewal of a contract, publicly or privately speaking of the allegations (e.g., with the complainant), continued harassment in any form, discriminatory treatment, isolation or failure to consider the individual concerned for a warranted post or promotion.
Any person who works as part of a PTA, and under the IPTA umbrella including staff, collaborators, students, and volunteers.
Prevention - The Recommended Strategy
The IPTA preferred method in dealing with inappropriate behaviour is proactive prevention, rather than reactive addressing. By understanding our shared values, and continually striving to achieve working and collaborative environments in good faith that are safe and inclusive for all IPTA members, we aim to ensure that we commit to the following behaviours.
Members commit to:
a) be respectful to their colleagues and maintain the highest standards of conduct and necessary confidentiality
b) maintain a harmonious working environment for other colleagues by behaving in a manner that is free of intimidation, hostility, offence and any other form of inappropriate behaviour
c) familiarise ourselves with the IPTA’s code of conduct policies, including an understanding of conduct that constitutes inappropriate behaviour; and educate ourselves with resources provided by the IPTA DEI committee through the IPTA DEI committee wiki page or through any training provided through our own PTAs
d) be aware of the various options and internal channels available to report inappropriate behaviour
e) refrain from all forms of retaliation
PI’s, Managers, Supervisors, Group Leaders
PIs, Managers, Supervisors and Group Leaders across all IPTA PTA teams commit to:
a) act as role models by upholding only the highest standards of conduct in order to achieve a safe and inclusive environment
b) facilitate, inspire and help to create a harmonious working environment free of intimidation, hostility, offence and any form of inappropriate behaviour
c) communicate this IPTA code of conduct policy to all team members, and be available to provide guidance on prevention and dealing with such forms of misconduct
d) ensure that incidents of inappropriate behaviour are promptly and adequately addressed in accordance with local policies of each PTA. In such cases, PI’s, managers, supervisors and group leaders must demonstrate fairness, impartiality, respect for confidentiality and be free from intimidation or favouritism
e) take all necessary measures to prevent and address retaliation
f) take all necessary actions to prevent members who supervise others (e.g. students) from engaging in inappropriate behaviour, as well as take measures consistent with the present policy should they witness any acts of inappropriate behaviour
PTA Teams (and local steering committees)
Each PTA commits to:
a) Implementing the present framework, act consistently and take the appropriate administrative, investigative, and disciplinary action required to address inappropriate behaviour; and inform any partner organisations (e.g., Universities) of its policy, regardless of the member’s function, title, length of service or contractual status
b) Where appropriate, provide training to members regarding the prevention of inappropriate behaviours
c) Take all necessary action to maintain the confidentiality of any reported incidents of inappropriate behaviour, and document these incidents as much as possible
d) Take all necessary measures to prevent retaliation against a complainant and/or witness
IPTA DEI Committee and IPTA Steering Committee
Both the IPTA DEI committee and IPTA Steering Committee agree to:
a) Agree and endorse this code of conduct document, whilst also distributing it through the IPTA DEI committee wiki page, at any conferences or social events, and to each PTA steering committee to further distribute to members
b) Continue to provide educational and knowledge resources through the IPTA DEI committee wiki page
c) Provide DEI support during conferences and events, including receiving emailed reports of incidents and triaging these to appropriate people in each PTA, on the basis of agreement by the person raising the incident and adhering to all confidentiality requirements
d) Conduct an annual climate survey of IPTA members to gather data on the dynamic changing environment of people across the IPTA, and report on these findings at the annual meeting
e) Discuss, review and find agreement on any changes to this document, acting as an independent (from individual PTAs) body of governance for all DEI activities
Recommended Dispute Resolution Processes
We list the following dispute resolution processes for each PTA to utilise within their own teams and acknowledge that each jurisdiction will have its own set of standards, definitions, and practices. Therefore, we recommend that each PTA implement its most appropriate dispute resolution process. Below, we provide some recommendations only on how each PTA can achieve this for PTAs to utilise as much as they like. We stress that dispute resolution processes are in the domain of each PTA, and not directed by the IPTA or DEI committee.
• We recommend that members are provided an opportunity to raise any incidents or complaints of inappropriate behaviour through either an informal or a formal process
• We recommend that no action should be taken against any member who reports in good faith information on perceived misconduct that subsequently proves unfounded
• We recommend that any reported incidents or complaints of inappropriate behaviour made at each PTA be investigated and addressed in a timely manner by the relevant institutions of PTA members, which would have their own formal processes for dealing with both informal and formal complaints of this nature
• We recommend any very serious incidents (such as criminal activities) are reported to local authorities as soon as possible
• We recommend that each PTA provide multiple pathways of reporting, including through electronic format (e.g., email) or in person. Where in person, we recommend that at least two people from each PTA can act in this role, one male and one female to ensure the member raising the incident is comfortable with raising these issues with the appropriate person
• We recommend that problems among colleagues would normally be reported to the manager or, if the problem is with the manager, to the manager’s manager.
The Informal Process
An informal process can provide members with the opportunity to resolve any complaints or grievances in an open, honest, non-threatening and non-contentious manner. The informal process can include:
a) Approaching the alleged offender (where it is safe and possible to do so, and where a person is comfortable to do so). An individual may not understand that they are being offensive and, if asked, may stop or alter their behaviour. Complainants who feel that they are being subject to inappropriate behaviour are encouraged, where possible, to inform the alleged offender that their conduct is unwelcome and request that such conduct cease. We strongly recommend all parties keep notes on these informal discussions and interactions as well
b) If required, another method is to involve a third party to assist in requesting the alleged offender in ceasing unwelcome and inappropriate behaviour. Whilst this is still an informal process (e.g., a conversation), it is mandatory that the third party is aware of this code of conduct framework, and methods of escalating matters to appropriate people within the PTA and where required to the relevant institutions of parties involved. The third-party should always act in the best interests of the alleged victim/alleged offender yet refrain from defaming the character of the individuals involved. The third party should be aware that sometimes the best form of assistance is a referral to a more appropriate source within the PTA or more than likely, the member’s institution
c) Lastly, in the informal process, a member may wish to involve a mediator (a neutral party) in which can hear the complaint being made and help resolve the situation by hearing both views. The Mediator will facilitate mediation on a strictly confidential basis, but where required, provide the complainant with the procedure to escalate the matter within the PTA. These informal processes, as well as the commitment to prevent incidents of inappropriate behaviour occurring, is the recommended strategy, and optimal solution for all IPTA members and PTA teams. However, where more serious incidents occur, we recommend a formal process be implemented by the relevant institutions of parties involved to investigate the incident, take required disciplinary action and allow for an appeals process. In all cases of criminal matters (according to local jurisdiction legislation), we recommend all members of management are informed and local authorities are contacted as soon as knowledge of these incidents becomes known.
The Formal Process
The formal process of reporting inappropriate behaviour will often require investigation, the collection of evidence, the establishment of facts and reporting on matters of this nature. They will likely require disciplinary action and ongoing support / management. As such, the IPTA DEI committee recommends that each PTA defer this responsibility to relevant institutions of parties involved in the incident, as these institutions will have trained professionals and dedicated teams to handle these types of cases. Appeals processes should also be handled by institutions, as should reporting.
Members of PTAs are expected to cooperate with any such investigations and share any required information permitted within the law of their own jurisdictions.
PTAs may wish to impose expulsion, at their own discretion, of members as a result of findings from an investigation of this nature. PTAs are also encouraged to ensure any member raising a formal complaint or incident report through this process (and to their institutions), should be kept in safe environments and not placed in awkward situations with the person they are alleging the incident against.
These processes should apply at all events, such as conferences and social events outside of work hours, as well as through any online medium.
As discussed above, these dispute resolution processes (both formal and informal) are ONLY recommended methods that each PTA can consider. Neither the DEI Committee nor the IPTA Steering Committee wishes to enforce any of these recommendations and will rely on each PTA to map out their own process to suit their needs, teams and local procedures.