Statement of Aims, Values, and Norms

Apr 4, 2017 by Matthew J. Brown


By registering to participate in the VMST annual conference, you agree to take active responsibility to promote the aims, values, and norms described below. You agree to refrain from conduct that is disruptive, destructive, or otherwise threatens the ability of attendees to participate as equals.

Aims of the Conference

The Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology and the associated VMST Conference promote academic work that positively impacts society. These positive impacts require security, trust, respect, collaboration, and solidarity, both within our academic communities and when interacting with other professionals, policymakers, and other public groups.

Participation as Equals

This conference is a space in which academics come together and participate as equals; this requires physical and emotional security in one’s person and possessions and camaraderie in one’s interactions. Some groups have historically been denied opportunities to participate as equals in academic communities, while other groups have historically held privileged positions. All participants in the conference are called to be reflective about their social position and power relations within the community, as well as how their behavior may threaten the ability of others to participate as equals.

Norms of Behavior at the Conference

Within the VMST Community, some well-established norms of behavior include:

  • actively encouraging the participation of members of marginalized and oppressed groups,
  • actively learning from unfamiliar intellectual and social perspectives,
  • posing comments and questions constructively rather than destructively,
  • making amends for harmful, offensive, or destructive behavior.

These norms are closely tied to the ability of all to participate as equals. We believe that talking about our community’s norms explicitly can help new members and guests integrate more smoothly and reflectively, and that this promotes their ability to participate as equals.

Inappropriate Behavior

Inappropriate behavior is any behavior that is incompatible with the aims, values, and norms characterized above. Specific examples of inappropriate behavior include dominating discussion; harassment, badgering, or verbal threats; physical or emotional assault; theft; and destruction of property.

Sexual harassment is a well-documented problem in many academic fields. Sexual harassment threatens the ability of not just the target to participate in the annual conference as an equal, but also many other conference attendees, and is therefore extremely inappropriate.

Many people find the mere possession of weapons threatening and disruptive. Community members and visitors who own weapons are strongly encouraged to leave their weapons at home, or securely store them in their vehicles or lodgings.

Not all inappropriate behavior is criminal, and not all criminal behavior is best handled by law enforcement. When inappropriate behavior is occurring, the highest priorities are to stop the behavior and prevent it from having harmful or disruptive effects. The organizers reserve the right to limit or deny participation in the conference to individuals whose behavior is inappropriate.

The conference organizers have designated ombuds for the conference, who can receive confidential reports of inappropriate behavior and work with the organizers to determine appropriate responses. The ombuds names will be listed in the program, and they will be identified to the attendees in the Welcoming session. They can also be reached by email at [email protected].


This document was drafted by Dan Hicks, with constructive feedback from Carla Fehr, Claudia Murphy, Anjan Chakravartty, and Matthew J. Brown and initial input from Janet Stemwedel. The VMST Conference is allied with the Consortium on Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering (SRPoiSE).