Code of Ethics
The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) is a membership organization that includes multidisciplinary professionals with a common interest in the fields of human genetics and genomics. Society members contribute to the advancement of science for the benefit of health and society.
The Code of Ethics provides an ethical framework for members, annual meeting attendees, volunteer leaders, awardees, and others engaged with the Society, especially as they work to further the aims of ASHG. Members act in a manner consistent with the good reputation of the Society. Members do not represent the Society as such. This Code of Ethics does not replace the ethical or legal obligations of individual members as set by other professional bodies, employers, or law.
Advancement of Science
Members advance both fundamental and applied knowledge in human genetics for the benefit of the public.
- Improvement of health care. Promote the health of the public, through the advancement of human genetic research and the provision of high-quality genetic services conducted to the highest ethical and professional standards.
- Training. Educate employees, students, and professionals to follow responsible research practices and provide high quality genetic services, consistent with the highest ethical standards. Treat trainees with respect and provide them with opportunities for professional growth and development.
- Collaboration. Share knowledge in research, practice, and ethics through publication, professional meetings and conferences, and foster collaborations. Meet applicable ethical and legal standards while collaborating.
- Public education. Foster public understanding of the nature and objectives of human genetics consistent with open and responsible use of human genetic findings in science and health care.
ASHG seeks to foster a welcoming and productive environment where research can thrive. Harassment—sexual or otherwise—is antithetical to a healthy scientific enterprise. Members of the Society should exhibit appropriate professional conduct in their interactions with all individuals whom they encounter in connection with their professional roles, including colleagues, students, researchers, laboratory and support staff, grantors, administrators, and others in the scientific community; non-members of the Society involved in Society activities must also exhibit professional conduct in connection with those activities. ASHG expects members, Annual Meeting attendees, and others involved in Society activities to adhere to professional conduct expectations. Inappropriate professional behaviors include but are not limited to:
- Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, religion, disability, marital status, or other legally protected characteristics, and harassment or disparagement based on gender or other protected characteristics;
- Physical contact that is uninvited and, in the situation, inappropriate, and unwelcome or coercive sexual attention;
- Intimidation, stalking, abusive, or threatening behavior;
- Yelling at, or personally insulting colleagues or others in the scientific community, verbally or physically;
- Retaliation against individuals who raise conduct concerns.
The Society reserves the right to assess whether an individual’s behavior is consistent with these conduct expectations and, based on that assessment, the right to bestow, deny, revoke or limit participation in Society-sponsored activities or eligibility for membership or honors. The Society may restrict or revoke eligibility to attend or participate in any ASHG-sponsored events or forums; receive or hold honors and awards; hold Society service and volunteer roles; receive grants or fellowships; hold membership; and other activity identified by the Board. Any action taken against an individual for violation of this Code shall be in accordance with Society policies and procedures and other governing documents.
Members comply with the highest ethical standards such as honesty and courtesy. They conduct themselves with appropriate behavior and attitudes.
- Maintain professional competence. Advance their knowledge and understanding of new scientific developments and emerging areas of practice through ongoing education and training.
- Respect professional Codes of Ethics. Abide by the prevailing ethical and legal norms of their profession.
- Objectivity. Strive for objectivity in their professional activities through recognition, acknowledgment, and mitigation of intentional and unintentional biases.
- Accountability. Act responsibly toward colleagues, government, corporate sponsors, the wider health care community and the public at large. Build public trust through accountability.
- Collegiality. Treat colleagues and researchers with respect and courtesy, based on principles of equality and mutual respect for those with differing worldviews or from different cultures. Share research results and ideas honestly, giving proper credit for others’ contributions to their work.
Members strive to protect the privacy of individuals, families, and communities and maintain the confidentiality and security of genetic information and biospecimens.
- Confidentiality. Respect the confidential nature of all medical information and research data entrusted to them. Disclose personal health information with proper and specific authority through the consent of the individual or where there is a legal, ethical, or professional right or duty to disclose.
- Storage and security. Follow best practices and abide by applicable laws in creating, storing, accessing, transferring, and disposing of personal health information and biospecimens.
Members act fairly and provide complete, accurate and timely information to their colleagues, to the public, and to the media.
- Professionalism. Claim expertise only in fields where they have the necessary depth of knowledge, especially when interacting with patients, or contributing to public discussion or policy debate. Do not make statements that are false, deceptive, or fraudulent concerning research, practice, or other work activities, or those of persons or groups with whom they are affiliated. Present personal opinions as such and not as those of the Society.
- Conflicts of interest. Disclose any potential conflicts of interest. Safeguard the quality and credibility of their professional judgment.
- Diffusion of results. Report findings, including negative findings, accurately, completely, without distortion and in a timely manner.
Approved March 2006. Updated May 2017 and May 2019.
ASHG Board of Directors