Problem Resolution Process
The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is committed to high standards of personal and professional ethical conduct. SETAC is dedicated to promoting an inclusive culture that encourages civil discourse. SETAC takes concerns (grievances or complaints) seriously and values their effective resolution. Anyone can raise a concern by following the process described in the SETAC whistleblower policy.
- In cases where illegal or unlawful behavior is reported (e.g., physical harm), it will be immediately reported to the authorities.
- Every effort will be made to treat the reported concern and identities of those involved in good faith with appropriate regard for confidentiality.
Concerns addressed through the problem resolution SOP include all those related to SETAC activities, including our programs, events and services that may be considered a violation of SETAC policies, including the SETAC code of ethics, code of conduct, mission as well as the conflict of interest policy and various confidentiality agreements. SETAC policies apply to members and guests, including governance and committee members, event attendees, chairs, speakers, volunteers, exhibitors, sponsors, staff members and service providers.
Problem resolution will be in line with provisions in the SETAC whistleblower policy:
- We will promptly acknowledge receipt of concerns.
- We will address each concern with integrity and in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner.
- We will assess each concern on its merits and involve people raising concerns or their representative in the process as far as possible.
- We value civil discourse at SETAC, and mediation will always be the first measure undertaken with the goal of reconciliation.
- We will strive to resolve concerns upon first contact with SETAC, where possible.
- We will assess and prioritize concerns in accordance with the urgency or seriousness of the issues raised.
- If a matter concerns an immediate risk to safety or security, the response will be immediate and will be escalated appropriately.
- We will advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to deal with any part of their concern and provide advice about where such issues or complaints may be directed (if known and appropriate).
- We will also advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to meet our time frames for responding to their concern and the reason for our delay.
- Each step of this process will be documented and will be transparent to those involved.
People who raise a concern will be:
- Provided with accessible and clear ways to file the concern.
- Listened to, treated with respect, and actively involved in the process where appropriate.
- Provided with information as it becomes available.
- Informed promptly of decisions and their reasoning as well as options for redress or review.
We are committed to informing those who raised the concern as soon as possible of the following:
- The concerns process and the expected time frames for our actions.
- The progress of the concern and reasons for any delay.
- Their likely involvement in the process.
- The possible or likely outcome of their complaint.
Consistent with the SETAC whistleblower policy, concerns can be reported verbally or in writing through the following channels:
- Any concerns can be reported directly to the SETAC compliance officers, the executive directors (EDs), verbally or via email at email@example.com.
- Concerns related to the executive directors should be reported to the relevant SETAC president or vice versa.
- Concerns related to very serious and sensitive issues relating to unethical or illegal conduct in financial reporting may be reported directly to SETAC attorneys, William McEachern at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Mooney at email@example.com.
When a concern is brought to the attention of any SETAC member or staff, it should be handled consistent with the SETAC whistleblower policy. For matters concerning SETAC publications, concerns will be escalated to the editors in chief and the program officer. All other concerns will be immediately escalated to the responsible executive director (ED).
The responsible ED will consult all relevant SETAC policies and will determine whether the situation can (and should) be diffused by communicating privately and separately with the individuals most directly involved and, possibly, particular witness(es) (“simple resolution”). A simple resolution is appropriate when the responsible persons provide a warning and clear mitigation instructions to a person accused of a violation of a SETAC policy, the accused person complies, the nature of the conduct concern and harm has been considered fully, and it is apparent that:
- The situation was a misunderstanding and has been corrected or lessons have been learned by those in need of learning.
- There is an authentic commitment to avoid a repetition of the cause of the conduct concern and no reason to think a repetition is likely.
- A sense of resolution and inclusion has been restored without the need for further action, and any identified individual target and accused person agree without coercion.
The responsible ED will record the incident in SETAC’s confidential files.
When a simple resolution does not apply, the responsible ED will expeditiously convene a committee of responsible persons as defined in the SETAC whistleblower policy and chair that committee to handle the concern. Members of the committee will be identified from the president, past president and vice president of the relevant SETAC entity, as well select members at large, possibly from the affected SETAC entity (e.g., from the Publications Committee if related to publications). In selecting members of the committee, the responsible ED should ensure that the committee is diverse and balanced (sector, geography and gender). The final composition of the committee should be expeditiously approved by the relevant SETAC entity executive committee. All members of the committee, including chair, should be able to declare absence of conflict of interest and due understanding of potential bias. Committee members may be recused or may recuse themselves if they cannot act with impartiality on behalf of and for the protection of SETAC.
The committee should begin with a review of the allegations. The committee should notify the individuals most directly involved by email or text. The responsible ED will give the known or available individuals most directly involved:
- An opportunity to provide in writing any additional facts relevant to the decision, but this will not required of them
- A copy of each one’s submission (if any) to the other(s)
- An opportunity to briefly respond in writing to the other(s)’ submission(s) (if any)
The responsible ED will set submission deadlines at their sole discretion. It may be difficult to definitively determine if the breach of conduct or policy has occurred, unless corroborated by others. The committee may wish to speak with other witnesses to determine with greater certainty that the behavior did, in fact, occur. They may want to consult other reports or investigations, if applicable. SETAC may not have the resources to conduct an independent investigation and, in that case, may initiate an investigation with another institution (e.g., the ethics office at the home institution of the involved individual[s]). The committee should ultimately communicate with the individual in question and ascertain if the allegations are true.
If it is determined that a breach of a SETAC policy has occurred, the committee should inform the individual in question, in person (if feasible) and in writing through the chair that such behavior is prohibited under the Society’s policies and of the potential consequences of the breach, depending on the severity of the violation. The committee should simultaneously and immediately attempt mediation towards reconciliation through civil discourse. If mediation fails, then the committee, through its chair, can notify the party in question of consequences.
Potential consequences include:
- Warning and probation
- Expulsion from a SETAC events (e.g., annual meeting)
- Ban from attending a SETAC event (e.g., annual meeting) for a specific number of years
- Ban from authorship in a SETAC publication
- Ban for a period of years from SETAC
- Lifetime ban from SETAC
- Repeal of a SETAC award or accolade
- Exclusions from consideration for SETAC awards or accolades
SETAC reserves the right to remove an individual from any program (e.g., event, publications, awards) without warning or refund, prohibit participation in future SETAC programs, and notify the individual’s employer of the matter.
The committee will summarize the results of the investigation (substantiated or otherwise), and the outcome will be communicated to the complainant and other involved individuals by the responsible ED. In some instances, the committee may need to create a communications plan for broader dissemination (e.g., public scandal or rescinding awards) or propose changes in SETAC procedures.
The committee who handled the complaint should provide a written summary, which should be retained in the official records. These records will be helpful should the individual engage in repeat offenses, submit a manuscript for publication, be nominated for a SETAC award, or run for SETAC office.
Record Keeping and Disclosures
Annually, a report will be prepared annotating the concerns received and how they were resolved. Records will be maintained with SETAC.
2022 Report (pdf file)
The problem resolution process was last updated and approved by the SETAC World Council in September 2022.