In 2002, the physics community was shocked by two high-profile cases of data fabrication—the Schön scandal and controversy surrounding the discovery of element 118—spurring calls to more effectively confront ethical issues in the practice of physics. Then two years later, an APS task force identified other issues in physics beyond faulty data collection, including poor treatment of subordinates.

As a result, APS began releasing ethics statements over the years to promote best practices in physics. The chair line of the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) at APS has been traditionally responsible for evaluating issues of ethics and reviewing ethics statements, but a new Ethics Committee, which convened for the first time on June 6, will now lead the charge for promoting ethical practices by APS members.

The eleven-member standing committee includes the past chair of POPA and representatives from the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, the Committee on Scientific Publications, the Committee on Minorities, and the Committee on Education, and six other voting members from a variety of backgrounds.

“We tried to draw pretty broadly across APS for stakeholders and expertise, in particular on matters that come up in ethics,” says Frances Houle, a member of the committee. “That is, matters having to do with treatment of people and having to do with preservation and protection of the scientific record.”

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