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APS Policy on Honors and Awards

The American Physiological Society (Society) confers honors and awards, including but not limited to awards and fellowship status; service on committees, Council and other volunteer positions (all referred to as honors in this policy); and on individuals for significant contributions to the field or interests of the Society. All honors and awards are conferred at the Society’s discretion, and it retains the right to grant, defer or decline to grant an honor to any person. The Society also retains the right to suspend or revoke an honor already granted if, in its judgment and discretion, the Society determines that it is in the best interests of the field to do so. Suspension means the honor (and the ability of the recipient to exercise any associated privileges and rights) are held in abeyance until notice by the Society that the honor is reinstated or revoked. 


See the glossary at the end of this policy for definitions of key terms.

While not the exclusive criterion in evaluating excellence in the field and in awarding honors, professional ethics is a keystone quality that eligible candidates must possess. When the Society awards an honor, it reflects the Society’s judgment that an individual’s contributions to, and effect on, the field are exemplary. The Society takes into account the totality of the individual’s work including their professional reputation and reputation for ethical conduct. It expects those who hold honors to demonstrate that participation in and recognition by the field are privileges and those who are celebrated by leaders in the field exhibit exemplary ethical conduct.

Unethical conduct may include, among other acts, sexual harassment and/or discrimination based on factors unrelated to an individual’s ability and promise (e.g., race and ethnicity). It may occur in research, learning, teaching, during scientific meetings, or in other contexts. This conduct perpetuates structural and systemic barriers to full participation of all talented individuals in the field. This has immediate and long-standing adverse impacts on individuals and undermines excellence in the field. 

The Society believes that when acts of unethical conduct have been committed by a current or prospective holder of an honor this denigrates the value of the honor and can contribute to longstanding structural and systemic barriers in the field. This consideration may also apply when there are credible, but unresolved questions about the ethical conduct of such an individual. Consequently, for the purpose of placing heavier weight on what is best for excellence in the field than what is best for any individual, the Society will not confer any honors or awards on any individual whose conduct has been determined to be unethical. This determination may be based on a review or investigation of an outside authority such as the individual’s home institution, a court, or a government agency when this determination and supporting information are made available to the Society. Investigations will be initiated by the Society when the unethical conduct occurs during Society-sponsored activities (e.g. APS meetings and conferences).

In addition, the Society will not confer any honor on an individual whose ethical conduct is the subject of a credible question known to the Society until that question has been finally and favorably resolved to the Society’s satisfaction, in its discretion. Credible questions arise when there is some fact or evidence of a conduct issue raised (which may include, e.g., a factual account by a target or bystander) that would justify a review or investigation. The question may relate to whether the conduct at issue occurred (including whether the facts raised are truthful, accurate, and complete) and/or whether the conduct is unethical.

Determinations of unethical conduct may also justify suspension or revocation of an honor. A credible but undetermined question of ethical professional conduct may also justify suspension. 

When applying this policy in situations of credible but undetermined questions, the Society will withhold judgment and not make a statement or determination regarding the individual in question. Rather, the Society’s objective is to implement prophylactic measures in support of giving priority to efforts to break down longstanding barriers to excellence

Any statement or action to the contrary of the above policy is prohibited and not authorized by the Society.

1) Conduct Issues: Pre-Award/Honor

A person applying for an honor, or who becomes aware that they are being considered for an honor or who holds an honor has a continuing duty to disclose to a Society Official the existence of any facts, situations, or circumstances that could be considered relevant to the Society’s Member Code of Conduct and a decision whether to award the honor under provisions of this Awards and Honors Policy. Failure to make a disclosure may result in the Society withholding, suspending or revoking an honor, at the Society’s discretion.

Anyone who makes a nomination or recommendation while knowing that the nominee has been determined to have engaged in unprofessional or unethical conduct, or that a credible but undetermined question exists about the nominee’s conduct, is required to make a disclosure while the nomination is under consideration. See section 3 for how to make a disclosure.

2) Conduct Issues: Post-award

Determination of unethical conduct may also justify suspension or revocation of an honor. When such a determination has been made as described in section 3 of this policy, the process below will be initiated.

a. Process for Suspension or Revocation of Existing Honors 

Upon notice by the Society to a person already holding an honor, the suspension or revocation of that honor shall take effect. At least 30 days before a notice of revocation or suspension, the Society will give the holder of the honor a notice of intent to revoke or suspend the honor. The notice of intent will include a statement of the interests of the field served by the proposed revocation or suspension, in the Society’s judgment. The holder of the honor will have an opportunity to submit to the Society, within 14 days of receiving a notice of intent, a written statement of any reasons why they believe it would not be in the best interests of the field for the revocation or suspension to be affected.  After that 14-day period, whether or not a statement has been submitted, the Society will act in its discretion. The Society, at any time, may review and act on pertinent information that was not available or known to it at the time of its decision.

b. Special Circumstances – Honors Held by Deceased Individuals

Special circumstances arise when unprofessional and unethical conduct of a deceased person who holds an honor is raised. The Society will exercise its discretion to address such situations on a case-by-case basis and may determine that no action is needed without heightened concerns. It will consider the following:

  • A deceased person is unable to participate in even an informal investigation or process, is unable to defend against allegations, e.g., of sexual harassment, or to participate in restorative remedies.
  • A deceased person cannot continue unprofessional and unethical conduct, eliminating threats that the conduct will be ongoing.
  • Unless heightened concerns for continuing impact on the field exist, the need to protect the interests of the field in eliminating barriers to inclusion may be limited, and the interest of fairness to the accused may be greater.
  • Heightened concerns for impact on the field, even after death, may exist when the act of unprofessional and unethical conduct has been determined during a person’s lifetime (or is established by unequivocal facts) and is highly egregious (respecting a single event or frequency). This is particularly so when the deceased holder of the honor is considered prominent in the field; when the honor is exceptional; or when an honor named for the individual will continue to be conferred on others.
  • When action is warranted, it may range from revocation of the honor to a statement rejecting the type of conduct in question. Revocation is an extraordinary remedy and the Society will exercise its judgment on a case-by-case basis. If a statement is made, the Society would articulate its rejection of the type of conduct raised but would not pass judgment on the individual; make a definitive statement about whether the conduct occurred; or add its commentary to what has been determined by others.  In its statement,, the Society may include examples of types of unprofessional and unethical conduct faced and consequential actions taken under the Society’s current policy generally to demonstrate the authenticity of its rejection of the type of conduct and its efforts to mitigate the impact on the field.
  • The Society is not expected to newly investigate a question of professional and ethical conduct related to a deceased holder of an Honor.

3) Process for the submission, investigation and review of disclosures related to awards and honors

Required Disclosures: The Society will be considered to be aware of conduct issues about the holder or potential recipient of an Honor if the Executive Director or any individual who participates in the official honors process is aware. These individuals must notify the Executive Director or the Director of Governance and Leadership, who will initiate the Society’s process for review.

Upon disclosure of a finding or question of unethical conduct, the APS Executive Director will convene the Executive Cabinet to review the disclosure, gather relevant information and make a determination as to whether the application can proceed or whether the award or honor should stand (in the case where it has already been awarded). If a member of the Executive Cabinet or the Executive Director has a conflict of interest with any of the individuals involved in the matter at hand, that person will recuse themselves from the process and the remaining Executive Cabinet members will select a replacement from the APS Council.

4) Restorative Remedies

In the event of determined conduct inconsistent with an honor—or in the event of a credible but undetermined question about such conduct—the Society may provide opportunities for restorative remedies that will diminish the effect of the actual conduct or credibly questioned conduct; elevate understanding of harm caused by such conduct; enhance relationships; improve conduct; advance safety for those affected; and prevent recurrence of any undesirable conduct. Such restorative remedies may eventually enable the individual in question to resume positive participation in the field and possibly to be granted future honors. The Society may pursue or encourage other institutions to pursue such remedies where, in the Society’s judgment and discretion, it is determined that restorative remedies are possible with authentic consent of both the accused and the target of the conduct and without perpetuating barriers to participation of all talent in the field or otherwise undermining excellence in the field. 

The Society would generally endeavor to consult the accused and the target of the conduct to consider, among other factors: 

  1. the egregiousness, prevalence, effect and recency of such conduct, as well as the stage of the individuals’ career when it occurred;
  2. whether an individual with determined unprofessional and unethical conduct has taken responsibility for the conduct and demonstrated through non-repetition of the conduct or other actions that they learned from what happened and is unlikely to repeat similar conduct;
  3. whether an individual appears to be sincerely committed to demonstrating professional and ethical conduct; understands how the determined conduct or questioned conduct occurred; has avoided a repetition; and has made an effort to restore the damage to the professional relationship; and whether these steps were taken not simply to qualify for receipt of an honor, but in recognition of the importance of professional and ethical conduct to excellence in the field.

© American Association for the Advancement of Science for the benefit of and sponsored by the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment In STEMM (http://educationcounsel.com/societiesconsortium/); original created by EducationCounsel LLC

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Glossary of Terms used in Awards and Honors Policy

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination on the basis of sex, and includes one or more of the following:

  • Sexual coercion or quid pro quo sexual harassment:  when threats or rewards respecting educational or employment benefits, support, or status are conditioned on sexual favors. [1]
  • Hostile environment sexual harassment: exposure in work- or education- related settings or activities to gratuitous (i.e., non-work related/unnecessary for the work) (a) sexual images, gestures, or remarks, (b) sexual insults, (c) non-sexual gender harassment (see below), or (d) unwelcome sexual attention—of such pervasiveness or severity as to interfere with a “reasonable person’s” ability to learn or work. (See reasonable person standard.) [2]
    • Gender harassment: is a form of sexual harassment that includes sexism, or other non-sexual behaviors (including remarks and conduct) that demean, denigrate, devalue, and disrespect individuals on the basis of sex. [3]
  • Sexual assault and battery, including but not limited to rape (which are crimes).

On the basis of sex: means on the basis of sex, gender identity, gender expression, failure to act according to gender stereotypes, and sexual orientation. [4]

Reasonable person standard: a threshold used in law to determine whether hostile environment sexual harassment has occurred. The facts are viewed through the eyes of a generic “reasonable person” in a similar circumstance, position, and relationship. Behavior (including comments, images, gestures, etc.) is evaluated to determine if it is gratuitous (i.e., not necessary for the work) and of such pervasiveness (frequency) or severity (even once) that it would interfere with a reasonable person’s ability to work or learn.  What a reasonable person in similar circumstances would find harmful may change with societal norms and power/knowledge/positional differences among individuals involved.

Credible question (of professional and ethical conduct): when there is a question about whether or not a person’s conduct meets the Society’s high standards of professional and ethical conduct (e.g., whether the person sexually harassed others). The question may concern whether a person engaged in particular conduct—or whether particular conduct is unprofessional and unethical—or both. References to: questioned conduct; undetermined question; credible but undetermined question; determination of a question not yet made; and like phrases in the policy mean there is a credible question about any one or more of these concerns. A credible question is just that—it does not represent a judgment or conclusion about any person.

Whether a credible question exists, and whether standards of conduct are met, require the Society to make judgments. Some considerations are addressed below, but these judgments must be guided by the Society’s mission, standards and the specific factual situation:

  • Typically, for a credible question to exist, there would be enough facts known to the Society, the accused’s home institution, or a government agency or other involved entity to warrant at least one of them conducting an informal or formal review of the questioned conduct and whether the facts are true, accurate and complete. However, a determination of the facts and question, one way or the other, has not yet been made—at all or to the Society’s satisfaction in its discretion.
  • A credible question may arise from information provided by someone who is directly targeted or who is indirectly affected by the conduct at issue (e.g., a bystander, witness, or someone else who knows of the conduct). It may exist if the conduct at issue is sexual harassment, whether or not that label is used, or a formal complaint is filed.  It may arise in a news report (followed by verifying key points for accuracy).
  • If truth of an allegation is impossible—e.g., the accused was elsewhere and could not have been present—there is no credible question.
  • Not all rumors raise credible questions. Conclusory, isolated rumors may not, if no salient facts are (even anonymously) provided and no affected people or witnesses come forward. Pervasive (even conclusory) rumors may create a credible question, though, particularly if persistent or if the subject of such rumors is prominent, and in a position of power, and there are reasons to believe those who may have the facts are fearful. [5]

A credible question may be resolved/determined by the Society’s own review, an outside authority’s determination (e.g., home institution, court, government agency) made available to the Society on which the Society relies, or both. The Society must be satisfied, in its discretion, that the question has been answered well enough to decide whether or not the person should hold the relevant Honor.

Determined conduct or determined question of conduct: after a credible question has been raised, there is a determination that a person’s conduct is or is not professional and ethical, meeting the Society’s standards of conduct (or not). This determination may be based on the Society’s own review, an outside authority’s determination made available to the Society and on which the Society relies, or both.

Discretion (the Society’s): means the Society’s decision, determination, judgment or application of criteria, is made in the Society’s sole and absolute discretion in pursuit of its mission. Such discretion is still not arbitrary or exercised for an illegal purpose (e.g. to discriminate on the basis of sex or race).

Restorative remedy:  means a remedy for gender harassment and some other forms of unprofessional and unethical conduct, where the individuals involved authentically consent to participate in a non-legal, informal process with aims of (a) elevating understanding of specific conduct-related harm (whether recognized by the “reasonable person standard” or particular to the individuals involved), (b) achieving confidence that the harmful conduct will not be repeated and the target will be safe; (c) restoring relationships and affirming a community that is inclusive and actively intolerant of harassment, and (d) potentially also offering the accused the opportunity to be a community member in good standing going forward. (The remedy may engage two people, together or separately, or a larger community, depending on the scope of those impacted and the circumstances.)

  • It is not necessary for gender harassment or other misconduct to be proven to engage in a restorative remedy.
  • At a high level, the accused must be willing to acknowledge that the target experienced harm from the accused’s conduct, but does not have to acknowledge all allegations (or, depending on the situation, legal culpability), as long as the accused is committed to understanding what conduct caused the harm and how to avoid repetition—and the target’s objective is to be safe from future harm, rather than to punish the accused.
  • Restorative remedies are not adequate when regulations require other action (e.g., Title IX regulations require formal process when desired by a target, and proposed changes may require formal process when a formal complaint is filed unless both parties agree otherwise; and research fabrication, falsification or plagiarism and violation of human subjects research regulations trigger regulatory requirements for formal processes).

Retaliation: means punishing or otherwise engaging in differential adverse treatment of someone in response to that person raising a concern about, or otherwise asserting the right to be free from, discrimination including harassment.[6] Prohibited conduct includes activity that would discourage someone from resisting or complaining about future discrimination/harassment. Retaliation can include actions such as transfer to a less desirable position or assignment; verbal or physical abuse; increased scrutiny; spreading false rumors; or making the person's work more difficult.[7]

[1] This behavior violates federal nondiscrimination law covering educational programs and employment. Title IX applies to all educational programs and supporting administrative and other functions of any non-federal entity that receives federal funding for any—broadly defined—educational program. It protects students, faculty, staff, participants in, and applicants to educational programs. Title VII protects employees and applicants for employment. This behavior also violates some states’ laws and, for public institutions, the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

[2] These acts also violate federal and some states’ laws and, for public institutions, the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

[3] Academies Report, pp. 42, 25-27, 72  (noting research indicating that gender harassment is more pervasive than, and can cause harm equivalent to, sexual coercion and unwelcome sexual attention). The full breadth of gender harassment covered by this policy can be, but is not always, currently recognized by law as hostile environment sexual harassment.  The law applies a reasonable person standard (influenced by societal norms) to determine whether that kind of sexual harassment has occurred.  The law on discrimination against people who, based on their gender identity or expression, fail to act according to gender stereotypes, is developing in the courts, particularly as relates to transgender students (see footnote 10). However, the Court has long been clear that harassment based on male and female gender, even if not sexual, and gender-based stereotyping, can serve as the basis for a discrimination claim.  See Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Ed., 526 U.S. 629, 650 (1999) (describing actionable harassment under Title IX to include male students threatening their female peers to prevent the female students use of a school resource); Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc. 523 U.S. 75, 81 (1998) (holding that same sex harassment can be actionable, noting that harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire, and can be motivated by a “general hostility to the presence of women in the workplace”); Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 19 (1993) (allegations sufficient under Title VII included gender-based insults such as “you’re a woman, what do you know,” and “we need a man as a rental managed”); Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 235 (1989) (allegations actionable under Title VII were that consideration for holding off female plaintiff’s partnership included that plaintiff should “walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry,” and that she was “macho,” and “overcompensated for being a woman,” and that objections to her use of profanity were only “because it’s a lady using foul language.”). The United States Department of Education has also long stated that gender harassment, which may include acts of verbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex stereotyping, but not involving conduct of a sexual nature, can be a form of sexual discrimination under Title IX. See USED OCR’s Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance (January 2001).

[4] The issue of gender identity and expression under Title IX is still developing in the courts. See Whitaker et. al. v. Kenosha Unified School District No. 1, 858 F.3d 1034, 47-52 (7th Cir. 2017) (upholding a preliminary injunction preventing a school district from enforcing its policy restricting a transgender boy from using school facilities aligned with his gender identity, which punishes transgender students for “fail[ing] to conform to the sex-based stereotypes associated with their assigned sex at birth); Grimm v. Gloucester Co. School Board, 302 F.Supp.3d 730 (E.D. VA 2018);  C.f., Joel Doe, et al. v. Boyertown Area School District, 897 F.3d 518 (3rd Cir. 2018) (petition for certiorari docketed in Supreme Court at  https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/docketfiles/html/public/18-658.html) (denying a preliminary injunction that sought to stop the School District from applying its policy to allow students to use bathrooms aligned with their gender identities, noting established severe psychological and other harm when students are denied that ability and that Title IX allows but does not require the provision of separate bathroom facilities; and finding opponents to the policy did not show sufficient harm to find the policy creates a hostile environment on the basis of sexual harassment of them); Compare, R.M.A. by Appleberry v. Blue Springs R-IV Sch. Dist., No. WD 80005, 2017 WL 3026757 (Mo. Ct. App. July 18, 2017), reh'g and/or transfer denied (Sept. 5, 2017), transferred to Mo. S.Ct., No. SC 96683, 2019 WL 925511 (Mo. Feb. 26, 2019) (upholding the dismissal of a case alleging sex discrimination against a transgender male student who was denied access to the boys’ locker room and bathroom “based on my sex and gender identity,” because the student did not allege sex stereotyping and Missouri law does not protect against discrimination on the basis of “gender-related traits” and, in dicta, no Missouri court has extended the Missouri human rights statutes to sex stereotyping).

[5] Providing safety to those with knowledge, and confidential informal means of exploring whether rumors raise a question that needs review, is an important focus for societies. So is regular communication about how and to whom a person may safely and confidentially provide information about sexual and intersecting bases of harassment, and when total confidentiality can’t be guaranteed (e.g., when safety of the community is threatened or Title IX requires an investigation). Whether Title IX regulations require an investigation may change if changes recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Education are implemented. Under current regulations, however, the need to investigate  depends on whether the Society or home institution has actual. knowledge, meaning certain representatives of the institution know (e.g., senior officials, supervisors, positions designated to receive complaints)—or whether the institution reasonably should have known, considering all facts and circumstances (e.g., rampant rumors, media reports, persistent red flags) had it made a diligent inquiry. If a society’s or institution’s employee sexually harasses a student while performing responsibilities for students, the society or institution is held responsible for remedying the effects of the harassment, whether or not it had notice. Having an ombuds function (with good training), whether full-time or as an assigned duty of someone whose other duties would not trigger a reporting requirement (so not a senior officer, supervisor, lawyer) can be helpful for maintaining confidentiality.

[6] See https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/retaliation_considerations.cfm (EEOC’s detailed discussion of the prevalence, determining factors and consequences of harassment).

[7] See Academies Report p. 81 (discussing research demonstrating the prevalence of and costs to targets from retaliation).