Conference and Meeting Code of Conduct

October 19, 2017

October 2023 Update: Paula Brantner of PB Work Solutions has been hired by NASW to receive reports and conduct investigations of potential code of conduct violations for the NASW community.

Use one of the following methods to report conduct concerns:

The National Association of Science Writers is committed to providing a professional environment at all of our events, welcoming people from diverse backgrounds. We expect our events to be a respectful, harassment-free environment for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, age, socioeconomic status, and belief. NASW values the diversity of views, expertise, opinions, backgrounds, and experiences reflected among all attendees.

In pursuit of those goals, speakers, staff, attendees, and volunteers (i.e. “participants”) at NASW meetings, conferences and events (i.e. the “event”), whether in-person or virtual, are expected to abide by the following code of conduct:

Expected behavior

  • Demonstrate respect and consideration for all people. Avoid dominating the microphone or airtime. In a virtual meeting, mute audio when not speaking.
  • Communicate openly and thoughtfully with others, listen well to others, and be considerate of the multitude of views and opinions that are different than your own. Make room for a diversity of voices in group discussions, on panels, and the like. Welcome all voices, regardless of whether they participate by video, audio, or other means. Facilitators, invite discussion but be sensitive not to pressure those who have not communicated to do so.
  • Be respectful in discussing and debating ideas. Demonstrate that differing perspectives are valued—critique ideas, not people.
  • Be collaborative. Be mindful not to exert dominance over others. Consider the effect of power differentials in relationships, positions, experiences; ease of communicating by video vs. audio or other means; and other factors to avoid dominance.
  • Follow the rules and policies of the venue and/or platform.
  • Act to avoid invading personal privacy of individuals. Assume that a person who is being viewed at times or in places where people can reasonably expect privacy (e.g., bathrooms, breastfeeding rooms) via a virtual event platform does not realize the situation, and notify the event contact(s) right away to help the person.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings and of your fellow participants during an in-person event. Call 911 or alert hotel/venue security if someone is in immediate danger or if an immediate and serious safety concern exists.
  • Report conduct concerns to an event contact so that concerns can be addressed responsibly and in a timely fashion. If you learn about the identities of any individuals involved in a conduct concern, respect and maintain the confidentiality of the individuals involved. If you are questioned as part of an investigation or review of a conduct concern, answer questions in a forthright and complete manner.
  • If any leader or facilitator of an activity/session, any official of the platform, or any event official directs you to stop a behavior or delete a comment, comply immediately. Such directions are made to implement this policy or the platform’s policies. After participants comply, they may raise any questions or concerns to an event contact.

Unacceptable behavior

  • Do not intentionally talk over or interrupt others.
  • Do not favor those participating by video, over audio or by other means.
  • Do not engage in biased, demeaning, intimidating, coercive, or harassing/hostile conduct or commentary, whether seriously or in jest (e.g., based on power differential, gender [sex, identity, expression], sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or national origin, religion, marital status, veteran status, age, body size or other physical appearance, disability, socioeconomic status, or other identities); this is the opposite of respectful and welcoming conduct.
  • Do not engage in personal attacks.
  • Do not offer unwelcome sexual attention, including but not limited to making sexualized comments or jokes, displaying sexually explicit material, inappropriate touching, groping, or making sexual advances.
  • Do not engage in stalking or unwelcome or surreptitious photography, screenshots, or recording of individuals.
  • Do not comment on personal appearance or assumed or known reasons why a person chooses to participate via video, audio, or other means—seriously or in jest.
  • Do not retaliate against or disadvantage anyone for reporting a conduct concern or assisting in its resolution. Do not make bad faith accusations.
  • Do not disrupt the event (e.g., “zoom-bombing” or sustained or disrespectful disruption of presentations) or engage in harm or threats of harm of any kind. Do not create/contribute to a safety threat or unsafe or exclusionary situation.
  • Do not make audio or visual recordings of the virtual event in any medium and do not distribute audio or visual recordings of the virtual event (via social media or any other means). Screenshots of presentation slides or presenters are acceptable unless the presenter notes otherwise during their presentation. Screenshots of attendees or audience members are not allowed. Only the National Association of Science Writers or its designees may do so. Registration constitutes consent to audio and visual recording (and use and alteration of the recording) by the event organizers (or those it authorizes) during the meeting for non-commercial purposes aligned with the event organizers’ mission.
  • Do not engage in any of these bad acts in the event or virtual event (including via public or private chat)—or on social media or by other means in any way associated with the event or virtual event.

What to do if you have a conduct concern

Notice: Paula Brantner of PB Work Solutions has been hired by NASW to receive reports and conduct investigations of potential code of conduct violations. As a neutral third party experienced in working with targets of discrimination and harassment, and as a trained investigator, Paula will provide you with more information about NASW's code of conduct enforcement process, to help you figure out how to proceed when you've experienced a potential violation.

Community members should use one of the following methods to report conduct concerns

For in-person events, call 911 or alert hotel/venue security if someone is in immediate danger or if an immediate and serious safety concern exists.

Confidentiality: If the person raising the concern, any identified individual target, or the accused or a witness asks an event contact for confidentiality of their identity while the concern is being addressed, reasonable steps will be taken to maintain it. NASW will not maintain confidentiality if - in its judgment and discretion - safety, law, an investigation, determination of a violation, or disconnecting/removing a participant from the event requires otherwise. Anyone who receives information during an investigation, however, must maintain its confidentiality; failure to do so is a serious violation of this policy, as is retaliation against any identified individual target, witness, or anyone who raises or helps resolve a conduct concern.

Determining a violation

When a conduct concern under this policy is raised to the event contact(s), the event contact(s) will determine whether the situation can (and should) be defused by communicating privately and separately with the individuals most directly involved and, possibly, particular witness(es) (“simple resolution”). A simple resolution is appropriate when an event contact provides a warning and clear conduct instructions to a person accused of a violation of this policy, the accused participant complies, and it is apparent that: misunderstandings occurred and are corrected or lessons have been learned by those in need of learning; there is an authentic commitment to avoid a repetition of the cause of the conduct concern (and no reason to think a repetition is likely); and (considering all of this and the nature of the conduct concern and harm) a sense of safety and inclusion has been restored without the need for further action, and any identified individual target and accused Participant agree to the simple resolution without coercion. event contact(s) will inform the NASW Board in any event.

If a simple resolution is not adequate, the NASW Board or its designee(s) may determine based on the event contact’s fact-finding whether a violation of this policy occurred and will notify the individuals most directly involved by email or text. Before making a determination, the Board or its designee(s) will give the known/available individuals most directly involved an opportunity to provide (but will not require them to provide) in writing any additional facts relevant to the decision; will give a copy of each one’s submission (if any) to the other(s); and will give each an opportunity to briefly respond in writing to the other(s)’ submission(s) (if any). The NASW Board or its designee(s) will set submission deadlines in their sole discretion but taking into account the nature of the conduct concern, timing, and logistics. If the NASW Board or its designee(s) does not make a determination during the Event (e.g., due to the nature of the conduct concern, time constraints, or logistics), the determination will be made and any consequences imposed in as timely a matter as possible.

Consequences that may be imposed

Anyone requested to stop unacceptable behavior is expected to comply immediately. After participants comply, they may raise any questions or concerns to an event contact.

NASW officials, including the Board or its designees, may take any action deemed necessary and appropriate, including immediate removal of participants from the in-person or virtual event.

If the NASW Board or its designee(s) determines a violation of this policy during an in-person event, the NASW Board or its designee(s) may, upon notice, require an accused participant to leave an event at the participant’s own cost and to maintain distance and separation from other participants at all event sites, or to leave any or all sites associated with the event during the general timeframe of the event. If the NASW Board or its designee(s) determines a violation of this policy during a virtual event, the NASW Board or its designee(s) may, upon notice, disconnect the participant (or compel disconnection), at the participant’s own cost, if any.

The NASW Board or its designee(s) may exercise the same discretion and impose any of the above-listed consequences on an accused participant prior to determining whether a violation occurred, if the NASW Board or its designee(s) decides, in their sole discretion based on those facts known, that a credible assertion that a violation exists and such action is needed in short order to avoid disruption or to advance inclusion or safety at the event. Other/additional consequences for violation of the policy, to be determined after the event, may include, without limitation, being banned or suspended from participation in events or meetings in the future. While consequences of this policy are separate from the Membership Sanctions outlined in NASW’s bylaws, the conduct of any NASW member with regard to actions contrary to this policy may, per the bylaws, be considered substantially prejudicial to the best interests of NASW and subjected to the complaint process outlined in the bylaws.

The NASW Board or its designee(s) will make the determination, in their sole discretion, to serve the best interests of NASW’s membership and mission as reflected in this policy.

An appeal of a decision on whether a violation of this policy occurred, or regarding the consequences imposed, may be pursued by a participant after the event. An appeal is available only due to newly surfaced, consequential facts that were not previously available when the decision was made; consequences grossly disproportionate (in leniency or stringency) to the violation found, considering how similar situations were handled, if any, under current NASW policies (i.e., not under prior policies); lack of facts to support the decision; a conflict of interest by a decision-maker; or a failure to fulfill process requirements with consequential effects on the appealing person’s ability to address important considerations.

However, the only remedy for an accused participant’s successful appeal of a requirement to leave an event is a refund of the event’s registration fee, if applicable.

For any questions about this policy, please contact Tinsley Davis, NASW executive director,, or the NASW president,

This policy was adopted in August 2017 and updated most recently on September 9, 2020 to reflect addition on online events.

This Conference and Meeting Code of Conduct was developed in part with a model policy developed and copyrighted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for the benefit of and sponsored by the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment In STEMM; original created by EducationCounsel LLC. This does not imply that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, EducationCounsel LLC, or the Consortium endorse its use or any changes made.