Political scientists share problems in common with practitioners of other scholarly disciplines. They also frequently encounter ethical problems unique to their professional concerns. To assist scholars in working through problems and differences the APSA maintains a standing committee to oversee complaints, resources on ethical principles for political scientists, particularly for those newly entering the profession and those conducting research involving human subjects.




APSA Guide to Professional Ethics, Rights and Freedoms

The following includes links to information regarding the APSA's ethics guidelines ("code of ethics"), more about the APSA committee that oversees, and the procedures for filing a grievance with the ethics committee.






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Principles and Guidance for Human Subjects Research (new)

At the 2020 APSA spring council meeting, the APSA council approved principles and guidance for human subjects research. The ad hoc committee on human subjects, formed in January 2017, identified broad principles of ethics relating to research on human subjects that can guide individual scholars in the design and practice of their research, inform institutional review boards about current standards and practices in political science research, and propose association standards in areas of broad-based agreement. The committee’s roster and charge are available online here.

Read the human subjects research principles and guidance


APSA Meetings Ombuds

The APSA meetings Ombuds is an informal, independent, and confidential resource available to APSA meeting attendees. The Ombuds speaks with any meeting attendee on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, consultation with any meeting attendees who believe that they have experienced any form of harassment, or who have concerns about violations of the sexual harassment provisions of the APSA anti-harassment policy while onsite at a meeting. Read more about the APSA annual meeting Ombuds.


Sexual Harassment Resources

APSA provides information on resources, both internal and external, related to sexual harassment prevention and response. Additionally, the association has a code of conduct / anti-harassment policy for APSA meeting attendees and policies and procedures for violations of the anti-harassment policy for meetings. Read more about APSA's sexual harassment resources




Ethical Problems Cover

In 1967 the APSA created a committee with a broad mandate to explore matters "relevant to the problems of maintaining a high sense of professional standards and responsibilities." that committee, chaired by marver h. Bernstein, published its report, "ethical problems of academic political scientists," in the summer 1968 issue of APSA's ps: political science & politics. An enduring contribution of this committee was the development of a written code consisting of twenty-one rules of professional conduct. The bernstein report, as it came to be called, also recommended the appointment of a standing committee on professional ethics and such a committee was duly created in 1968. The title, the work, and the jurisdiction of the standing committee have been in a process of continuous evolution since that time. Its original jurisdiction, for example, did not include individual cases. The committee was at first envisaged as an educational body to "protect the rights of political scientists" by the issuance of advisory opinions to guide the professional behavior of political scientists. Twenty-three advisory opinions have been adopted since the committee was established.



Members can read the 1968 report in the member bookshelf.

In 1989, after some twenty years of experience, the APSA again created a committee to review the charter of what has come to be called the committee on professional ethics, rights and freedoms.

The charter review committee, chaired by lawrence j. R. Herson, incorporated the advisory opinions into the basic code of the association, revised and reorganized the statement of ethical principles, and brought other materials up to date. This newly revised guide remains the charter of the committee on professional ethics, rights and freedoms, and provides a statement of ethical principles fundamental to the practice of political scientists.


Committee on Professional Ethics, Rights, and Freedoms

The responsibility of the committee on professional ethics, rights, and freedoms is to protect the rights of political scientists and ensure that the ethical policies of APSA are followed. Contact the Ethics Committee.

Term expiring August 31, 2019

  • Alison Brysk, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Kathleen Hancock, Colorado school of mines
  • Gretchen Ritter, Cornell University

Term expiring August 31, 2020

  • Justin wert, University of Oklahoma
  • Deborah Yashar, Princeton University

Term expiring August 31, 2021

  • Alison Dundes Renteln, University of Southern California, chair
  • Alan Gibson, California state University, Chico
  • Erik s. Herron, West Virginia University


The Role of the Committee:

APSA's committee on professional ethics, rights and freedoms is concerned about any ethical problem or personal abuse experienced or caused by political scientists acting in their professional capacity. The primary responsibilities of the committee fall into three major areas:

  1. Handling individual grievances and complaints,
  2. Writing ethical guidelines for the association, usually in the form of advisory opinions, and
  3. Helping protect human rights of scholars in other countries.


How to submit a grievance

To submit a grievance or concern, email [email protected] or visit the new online incident reporting platform, APSA ethicspoint.

What is ethicspoint? Ethicspoint is a comprehensive and confidential reporting tool created by navex global to assist APSA with managing reports of harassment from meeting, conference, and workshop attendees, individuals with professional ethics grievances, and general ethics inquiries, related to an APSA entity or event, from APSA members and non-members ethicspoint will also be used to address professional ethics grievances and complaints submitted by APSA meeting conference and workshop attendees.


Related resources

Code of best practices in fair use for scholarly research in communication 
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