RDA Code of Conduct - Draft for Review

PLEASE NOTE - The comments have been closed on this version of the Code of Conduct document. All current comments are being incorporated into a new version to be sent to Council. There will be opportunities for additional input soon.   Many thanks for all of your feedback thus far!  - Lynn (Secretariat)



All RDA community members are welcome and encouraged to review the following draft Code of Conduct text prior to implmentation at Plenary 11. Feedback on this version will be accepted through Friday, 9 March 2018, and further iteration to refine this document is expected to occur regularly going forward. Comments submitted to this page are welcome, please log in or register with RDA to post here. Feedback can alternately be submitted to enquiries@rd-alliance.org to be visible to the Secretariat.  Note the 'conduct@rd-alliance.org' email address noted in the document is not yet functional as of 16 Feb 2018. This page will be updated when that email (or another preferred alias) goes live prior to P11.



Draft for Comment: RDA Code of Conduct1


RDA is a rapidly growing global community of diverse individuals, institutes, government bodies, and organisations including corporations and businesses with valuable expertise, perspectives, and experiences. RDA greatly benefits from the mixing of cultures, but is also vulnerable to the dangers that can arise from cross-cultural misunderstandings. To better support a safe and inclusive environment for all community members, RDA is articulating a Code of Conduct to clearly signal community norms. This document assumes that the overwhelming majority of people wish to contribute to RDA come from a place of respect for the organisation and its members. The intent of the document is to be explicit about inappropriate behaviour and to outline associated consequences.

This document should be seen as just one stepping stone towards collaboratively building a more welcoming and inclusive RDA. The Code of Conduct will be reviewed regularly by Council based on feedback from members.

A set of Frequently Asked Questions relating to the creation and purpose of codes of conduct is available.



RDA works at Plenaries and via a range of online fora, as such the code below covers behaviour in both in person and virtual contexts.


Professional Behaviour

Your contributions to RDA, regardless of venue, make RDA stronger and are valued by the RDA community. We ask that as part of the RDA community, you help others feel equally valued and welcomed by treating others with the respect and professionalism with which you would like to be treated. All members of RDA are expected to abide by the core principles initially agreed to upon joining RDA.


Production/Posting of Inappropriate Content
RDA expects members to refrain from production or posting any of the following2 in an RDA context:

  1. Material that infringes the copyright of another person or entity, including insufficient copyright attribution.
  2. Material which defames, abuses or threatens others.
  3. Statements that are bigoted, hateful or racially offensive.
  4. Material that advocates illegal activity or discusses illegal activities with the intent to commit them.
  5. Material that contains vulgar, obscene or indecent language or images.
  6. Unauthorized posting of personal information (names, address, phone number, email, etc.) of other individuals.
  7. Advertising or other commercial solicitations.
  8. Opinions of fictitious or third parties.

We expect participants to follow these rules at conference and workshop venues, conference-related social events, on official RDA online platforms, or when using associated social media identifiers of RDA, e.g. #RDAPlenary, @resdatall.



Harassment includes, but is not limited to, offensive verbal or written comments related to any of the following: gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, color, race, ethnicity, religion. It can also include activities related to display of sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

RDA recognises that what is offensive will vary across cultures and individuals. Harassment is defined from the perspective of the individual who is the target of the harassment.  In the case of divergent views, cases will be presented to Council.  Council will be the ultimate arbiter.



If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any concerns regarding unprofessional behaviour, please contact a member of RDA Leadership immediately. For the purposes of this document, RDA Leadership is defined as Council, Secretariat, Organizational Assembly Board co-chairs, and Technical Advisory Board co-chairs. At conferences, these individuals can be identified by badge ribbons. You may also email conduct@rd-alliance.org. Emails to this address are visible to members of the RDA Secretariat. Should any claims involve a member of RDA Leadership, that individual will be recused from any discussions and decisions related to that claim.

RDA Leadership may take actions as deemed appropriate. Actions will be determined on a case-by-case basis. A phased response will be determined should escalation of action be needed. Actions could include one or more of the following as appropriate:

  • Notify the offender and ask them to stop the unprofessional or harassing behaviour
  • Immediate removal of unprofessional or offending content on the platform used for publication (social media channel, web platform, mailing list, etc.)
  • Removal of incorrect and/or unprofessional post and/or thread on mailing lists or web platform
  • Provide accompaniment, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe until other assistance arrives
  • Contact the appropriate members of the RDA Leadership to pursue escalation
  • Help participants contact venue security or local law enforcement if appropriate and if the complainant is comfortable doing so
  • Expulsion of the offender from the event with no refund
  • Expulsion of the offender from the organisation
  • Other actions as warranted

In the case of someone who feels they have been accused of unprofessional or harassing behaviour in error, they can seek redress through Council.


1Original source and credit: http://2012.jsconf.us/#/about & The Ada Initiative. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

2Items 1-8 are drawn from https://www.americanbar.org/utility/codeofconduct.html, used with permission and modified slightly for RDA purposes.

  • Jacques Drolet's picture

    Author: Jacques Drolet

    Date: 17 Feb, 2018

    I would add to the inappropriate content list: "Material or statements that incite to violence"

  • Rob Hooft's picture

    Author: Rob Hooft

    Date: 17 Feb, 2018

    Many of these things "go without saying". A disadvantage to making them explicit is that they may be open to different interpretations. I feel this is especially the case for the description of "inappropriate content".

    Ad 8: I guess the posting of clearly marked opinions of third parties could even be desirable in an RDA context?

    Ad 7: Many of the people active in RDA are working at commercial entities. Is it always inappropriate to draw attention to relevant services of those companies?

    Ad 5: Who decides on indecency? People have different norms. Norms shift.

    Ad 4: Which law? RDA is an international organisation. What is legal in one jurisdiction may be illegal in another.

    The applications of these rules to people using the RDA hashtag or twitter handle on social media is really hard.... you can't force people from outside the organisation to follow our rules. It's a jungle out there.



  • Keith Russell's picture

    Author: Keith Russell

    Date: 18 Feb, 2018

    Just a minor thing, at present there is a line that reads:

     towards collaboratively building a more welcoming and inclusive RDA.

    I would suggest writing that as 'towards collaboratively continuing to build a welcoming and inclusive RDA.'

    I have seen RDA as being welcoming and inclusive already and we are continuing to stay that way.

    Cheers, Keith

  • Stephanie Wright's picture

    Author: Stephanie Wright

    Date: 18 Feb, 2018

    It seems to be that the 2nd & 3rd bullets under "Support" are redundant... or am I missing something?

  • Lauren Gawne's picture

    Author: Lauren Gawne

    Date: 19 Feb, 2018

    First: Thanks to the RDA Secretariat and everyone who worked on this draft. The contextualisation makes it a much more useful document than many boiler-plate CoC's I've read

    Second: It can take an incredible amount of effort to contact a formal group to make a complaint about behaviour that is not in the spirit of the RDA. It would be good if the document provided a little more information about what would happen when you contact the RDA leadership (and I'm also hoping that you have clear internal policies on this). For example, it would be good to know how soon after the RDA leadership intend to reply, and if the first person who replies will be your ongoing point of contact. You may wish to clarify these things in another doucment, but they're worth thinking about.

  • PI FRONTH NYHUS's picture


    Date: 19 Feb, 2018

    might be of use in terms of Context  of a Code of conduct and Declaration of financial interests ?

  • Jonas Recker's picture

    Author: Jonas Recker

    Date: 20 Feb, 2018

    Thank you indeed for preparing this draft document! I have one suggestion

    • "3. Statements that are bigoted, hateful or racially offensive." - to me, "racially offensive" sounds like a weaker term for "racist" behavior or statements, so I would suggest changing to "racist"


    I also second Lauren's comment.

  • Jonas Kahle's picture

    Author: Jonas Kahle

    Date: 22 Feb, 2018

    In the case of someone who feels they have been accused of unprofessional or harassing behaviour in error, they can seek redress through Council.

    How is this process made transparent to the RDA members? I agree with many points above on vague terminology (like "Opinions of fictitious or third parties", "refrain from [...] in an RDA context" - what is contained in the "RDA context"?) and different norms. But if there is a transparent process, like a right to a public appeal, a CoC will only be gain, no loss.


  • Lynn Yarmey's picture

    Author: Lynn Yarmey

    Date: 24 Feb, 2018

    Sincere thanks to you all for your comments thus far!  I will make sure all of these are considered in the next iteration.  Please keep the feedback coming!   I am grateful to you all for your thoughtful feedback to date.  - Lynn

  • Harald  von Waldow's picture

    Author: Harald von Waldow

    Date: 25 Feb, 2018

    I find

    "4. Material that advocates illegal activity or discusses illegal activities with the intent to commit them."

    highly problematic in a global community such as RDA. Many activities are legal in jurisdiction A and illegal in jurisdiction B. In particular this is the case for IP related issues. Unless you specify "illegal for whom, where and when" this criterion is not well defined and can be applied rather arbitrarily. Defining it in a way that makes sense is most likely impossible in this context.

  • Mark Parsons's picture

    Author: Mark Parsons

    Date: 01 Mar, 2018

    Thank you for putting this together. 

    It is clear that much thought was put into this and it is nice, as Lauren said, to have the RDA context. It is rather long, though.  Perhaps there could be a short/summary version at the top.

    Something like:

    "RDA is a rapidly growing and diverse global community that seeks to be as open and inclusive as possible. RDA greatly benefits from the mixing of cultures and requires a collegial, respectful, and professional atmosphere. including, but  not limited to, offensive verbal or written comments related to any of the following: gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, color, race, ethnicity, religion, or technical choice. Members violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the meeting or from RDA. 

    If you need help, please contact:  ..."



    I think we should add "technical choice" to the link of harrassing criteria. I have witnessed technical bullying.

    As mentioned by others, point 4, is problematic in an international context, unless you mean international law. Maybe be more explicit here, e.g to slander, incite violence or theft, ...

    Providing referenced opinions of (real) third parties should be fine. That's necessary in research debate. point 8

    I also worry a bit about, 5    Material that contains vulgar, obscene or indecent language or images. As they are very much defined by culture and RDA is global organization trying to engage many cultures. Just a tough one to adjudicate. And although we have Council as the final adjudicator, it may well be local law enforcement in some cases.

    Finally, I agree with others that the process needs to be more explicit and transparent. It may help, if you separate conference behaviour from remote activity on-line.

    Specifically for the Plenary, RDA "leadership" should be clearly badged. Also, since Leadership are often at side meetings during RDA and are not always so findable, conference staff should be badged too, they will know how to find a member of leadership.