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Ethics for USGS Emeriti

USGS Emeriti must follow the ethics rules described in Chapter 3 of the Volunteer for Science Handbook. Listed below are some issues specific to Emeriti.

Ethics rules and other related requirements for USGS Scientists Emeriti

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Scientists Emeriti must follow the ethics rules described in Chapter 3 of the Survey Manual (SM) Volunteer for Science Handbook, 500-23-H, which is appended in its entirety at the end of this document.

The following section provides answers to some questions that have been raised by our Scientists Emeriti.

1. What scientific integrity requirements must a Scientist Emeritus follow?

Ethics rule #5 from Chapter 3 of the Volunteer for Science Handbook states that volunteers are subject to the requirements and conditions of 305 DM3 (Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities) and USGS chapter SM 500.25 (Scientific Integrity). These documents establish USGS and DOI policy for ensuring scientific integrity in the conduct of scientific activities and procedures for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating allegations of scientific misconduct by USGS employees and volunteers. 

            Work undertaken by a Scientist Emeritus that is "not related to the Emeritus workplan and done with personal resources" could create an actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest. Such work must be disclosed to the Scientist Emeritus’ sponsor/supervisor if it is related to the work the Scientist Emeritus is undertaking for the USGS. This requirement is addressed by Ethics rules #1, 2 and 14 (refer to Chapter 3 of the Handbook below). 

            A Scientist Emeritus may not use his/her USGS affiliation on publications that were not undertaken while a Scientist Emeritus on behalf of the USGS because this would lead to an incorrect assumption that the work had followed USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) requirements and received Bureau approval for release.

2. Regarding ethics, what is the importance of Scientists Emeriti completing the online form OF301a?

Scientists Emeriti must complete the online form OF301a, explaining in writing the work they will undertake that has been discussed with and approved by their supervisor. Documentation of a Scientist Emeritus’ work in their online OF301a (along with associated documents, such as for Scientists Emeriti in the Water Mission Area) is evidence that the Scientist Emeritus is undertaking work that meets USGS ethical and professional standards.

            The description of work should be detailed enough so that potential conflict of interest concerns can be addressed. Additionally, a detailed description of work will enable greater flexibility in permitting “non-USGS Scientist Emeritus work” that the Scientist Emeritus may be interested in pursuing.

3. When can a USGS Scientist Emeritus show USGS affiliation on his/her publications?

A Scientist Emeritus who has an approved online form OF301a can use USGS affiliation for their publications that are related to their Scientist Emeritus workplan and that follow Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) requirements (refer to SM 502.1 - FSP Foundation Policy). The body of the manuscript should include wording such as “The work by (author’s name) was done while serving as a Scientist Emeritus with the U.S. Geological Survey.”

4. If a USGS Scientist Emeritus is attending or presenting at a professional meeting using his/her own funds, is it appropriate to still register for the meeting using a USGS affiliation, or must a personal address be used?

If using personal funds to attend a meeting/conference, the Scientist Emeritus must register using a personal address, not a USGS affiliation. The Scientist Emeritus can only use a USGS affiliation if the USGS pays for the meeting registration and other costs, including travel expenses. The Scientist Emeritus must have a USGS Travel Authorization. Scientists Emeriti may not make presentations on their USGS Scientist Emeritus work if they are not able to properly use their USGS affiliation while attending a professional meeting.

5. Can a USGS Scientist Emeritus be listed as a Principal Investigator (PI) on an agreement?

Yes, a Scientist Emeritus may be listed as a PI, but another individual who is actively employed with the USGS must also be included as a key point of contact for logistical purposes.

6. Can a USGS Scientist Emeritus be a passenger in a government vehicle with a USGS employee?

Only individuals that have a USGS travel authorization may be a passenger in a government vehicle driven by a USGS employee. If the Scientist Emeritus has a travel authorization and is performing USGS work, they are covered as a passenger by their OF301a volunteer agreement. The Scientist Emeritus’ OF301a must include authorization to travel in official government vehicles.

7. Can a USGS Scientist Emeritus operate a U.S. Government vehicle if they have a USGS Travel authorization?

Yes, a Scientist Emeritus may operate Government-owned or -leased vehicles (sedans/vans/trucks) if they possess a valid State driver's license, are at least 18 years of age, and complete an 8-hour Defensive Driving Training via DOI Talent.

8. If a USGS employee was a Project Chief before they retired, can they continue as a Project Chief after they retire and become a Scientist Emeritus?

No, an individual who is actively employed with the USGS must be named the Project Chief.

9. Can a Scientist Emeritus serve on USGS Research Grade Evaluation (RGE) and Equipment Development Grade Evaluation (EDGE) panels?

Yes, USGS Scientists Emeriti may serve on USGS evaluation panels.


Volunteer for Science Handbook, 500-23-H (February 2013) Chapter 3. Ethics

Volunteer service must be undertaken for the purpose of accomplishing the USGS mission. A position as a USGS volunteer brings with it significant visibility and responsibility. Consequently, there are a number of ethics rules that volunteers must follow as a condition of receiving and retaining volunteer status. 

1. Volunteers must avoid conflicts of interest between their volunteer duties and their financial interests. Volunteers may not use their volunteer status for personal financial gain or the financial gain of people or entities whose financial interests are imputed to them (i.e., their spouse; minor children; general partner; an organization in which the volunteer serves as an officer, director, trustee, general partner; an entity with whom the volunteer is employed; or a person or entity with whom the employee is negotiating for or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment). This restriction includes providing recommendations and advice to USGS personnel or to entities with which the USGS has collaborative agreements or to which the USGS provides grant funding.

2. Volunteers must keep the USGS personnel with whom they are associated as a volunteer informed as to employment status. This enables USGS personnel to determine whether there are projects on which the volunteer should not work and to assist in avoiding conflicts of interest. Supervisors of volunteers must avoid assigning duties to individuals that would present a conflict of interest. 

3. Volunteers must protect and conserve Government resources. Government resources may only be used for authorized purposes and may not be used for any commercial activity.

4. Volunteers may only use USGS information technology resources (computer, Internet, telephone, etc.) in accordance with the DOI’s limited use policies

If volunteers are engaged in employment outside the USGS, a USGS email account may not be used in association with the employment. 

5. Volunteers are subject to the requirements and conditions of 305 DM3, Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities and SM Chapter 500.25, Scientific Integrity. These documents establish USGS and DOI policy for ensuring scientific integrity in the conduct of scientific activities and procedures for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating allegations of scientific misconduct by USGS employees and volunteers

6. Volunteers may not release non-public information to unauthorized entities. The USGS is the principal source of scientific and technical expertise in earth and biological sciences within the Federal Government. Because of the scope of the programs of the USGS and its involvement with unpublished, confidential, or proprietary information, it is essential that volunteers and supervisors understand the concerns of the USGS regarding unauthorized use or release of data. All information and data collected by a volunteer are considered provisional until verified by a supervisor or other qualified USGS employee.

7. Volunteers may not testify or provide a deposition as an expert witness in matters concerning volunteer work or concerning the work of the USGS project or team with which the individual is associated without prior authorization from the USGS Ethics Office.

8. Volunteers may not fundraise on Government property or use Government resources to fundraise except as permitted by the Combined Federal Campaign regulations and policies.

9. Volunteers may not engage in political activity in Government facilities or use Government resources to engage in political activities.

10. Volunteers may not engage in lobbying activities using appropriated funds or Government resources. 

11. Volunteers may not enter private property unless authorized by the supervisor who has obtained appropriate permission.

12. Volunteers may not collect monies and fees owed to the U.S. Government.

13. Volunteers are not authorized to make any commitments or promises of any kind that could be interpreted to bind the Government or create any financial obligation (excluding approved business travel costs) on the part of the USGS.

14. If there is a question as to whether a volunteer's assignment creates an actual or potential conflict of interest or raises concern regarding the impartiality of the volunteer, the supervisor may offer the volunteer the opportunity to serve in another USGS capacity to eliminate the conflict of interest (or appearance of a conflict of interest) or impartiality concern. If the conflict of interest or impartiality concern cannot be resolved, the volunteer's service with the USGS shall be terminated. Whenever possible, the volunteer should be referred to the local, regional, or office volunteer coordinator, as appropriate, for placement.