GA4GH Code of Ethics and Community Conduct (CECC)


Formed in 2013, the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) unites an international community dedicated to accelerating the potential of research and medicine to benefit human health through genomic data. It brings together 500+ leading organisations working in healthcare, research, patient advocacy, life science, and information technology.

The GA4GH community collaborates to create technical standards, policy frameworks, and policy tools to enable the responsible, broad, and democratised use of genomic and related health data. We develop free, open-source products that make it simple and safe to request, access, and study genomic and health data stored anywhere. In addition, GA4GH products help organisations become effective data stewards. All of our work builds upon the Framework for responsible sharing of genomic and health-related data, which takes a human rights approach to data sharing.

GA4GH is a growing and global community where participants choose to work together. In that process we encounter differences in language, geography, culture, nationality, and experience. In such a diverse environment, misunderstandings and disagreements happen, which in most cases can be resolved informally. When the issue cannot be resolved informally, we will use this document instead.

The GA4GH Code of Ethics and Community Conduct aims to define and promote high standards of professional practice. The goals of this Code are to:

  • define both expected and unacceptable standards of behaviour;
  • provide a benchmark for behavioural evaluation;
  • ensure transparency in community and group management;
  • ensure an environment where people can participate and collaborate without fear of harassment or discrimination;
  • reinforce the GA4GH community identity and establish a culture of care.

The purpose of these standards are to ensure that all contributors to GA4GH promote the mission of the GA4GH and maintain a professional and respectful environment. The document applies to all activities of, and interactions between, those contributors involved in GA4GH, whether inside or outside the scope of GA4GH activities.

Our values

The GA4GH Code of Ethics and Community Conduct aims to define expected behaviours and to promote high standards of professional practice. GA4GH strictly prohibits discrimination, intimidation, harassment, and bullying of any kind and on any basis. This commitment calls for a safe, welcoming community in which participants at all levels can do their best work and behave according to this Code of Ethics and Community Conduct.

GA4GH is committed to maintaining a positive working environment for which we all share responsibility. Each person you interact with is unique, and behaviour must be assessed on an individual level. Ensuring that your behaviour does not have a negative impact is your responsibility. GA4GH expects all of its participants to adhere to the expected behaviours stated below. In turn, this document will help ensure accountability, allow us to address unacceptable behaviour, and provide redress where incidents/unaccepted behaviours are observed and reported. GA4GH also expects participants to avoid the unacceptable behaviours listed below; failure to do so may be seen as a violation of the Code of Ethics and Community Conduct, and result in the consequences listed in section VI.

Application of the code

The Code of Ethics and Community Conduct applies to any member of the GA4GH community, including but not limited to staff, members, invited experts, and participants in all GA4GH activities. These activities include, but are not limited to, virtual and in-person meetings, functions, conferences, mailing lists, code repositories, Slack channels, and social platforms. GA4GH membership and/or participation in GA4GH virtual and in-person meetings, conferences, and events constitutes an agreement to adhere to the Code of Ethics and Community Conduct.

These policies also cover participant conduct in all professional and educational settings and related environments, even if those settings/environments are not affiliated with GA4GH. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • any professional workplace, networking event, or activity;
  • conferences, meetings, workshops, tutorials, discussion panels, and other activities at GA4GH-affiliated meetings, in-person and virtual;
  • oversight and adjudication of written and verbal communications;
  • informal spaces where there are social activities with GA4GH members;
  • informal and professional social networking websites and online platforms.

Violation of other GA4GH policies, such as those listed below, may potentially violate the GA4GH Code of Ethics and Community Conduct:

Note that this Code complements, rather than replaces, any other applicable policy, agreement, legal right, or obligation for any member of the GA4GH community.

Expected behaviours

All participants in GA4GH should adhere to the following behaviours at all times. The GA4GH guidelines for respectful engagement provides a detailed description of the background, context, and nature of expected conduct. Non-adherence can be reported and may potentially result in the consequences described in section VI of this Code.

Members and participants in all professional, social, and educational settings covered by the Code of Ethics and Community Conduct shall:

  • adhere to GA4GH’s mission and policies, including the Constitution and Framework for responsible sharing of genomic and health-related data;
  • act to uphold the interests and reputation of the GA4GH;
  • commit to the highest standards of objectivity and transparency concerning credentials, qualifications, and conflicts of interests;
  • treat all members, participants, attendees, staff, and vendors with respect, empathy, consideration, and professionalism, valuing a diversity of views and opinions;
  • give others fair, inclusive, and equitable consideration, regardless of any category or characteristic, including, but not limited to, their own or another’s race, colour, national or ethnic origin, caste, immigration status, religion, age, marital status, parental status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, body size, socioeconomic background, level of education, disability, or military service or veteran status;
  • communicate openly with respect for others, be open to new perspectives, and critique ideas rather than individuals; be aware of how much time is taken up by dominant members, and make space for others; members shall avoid personal attacks directed toward other GA4GH members, participants, attendees, staff, and vendors;
  • think of others’ needs from their point of view and work to eliminate your own biases, prejudices, and discriminatory practices (see this link for ideas on how to do this);
  • acknowledge the contributions of your peers, and do not attempt to injure the reputation of or professional opportunities for others by false, biassed, or undocumented claims;
  • respect the rules and policies of all meeting/event venues, as well as any other applicable meeting or generally-applicable codes of conduct in GA4GH co-sponsored meetings and events; accommodate participants’ needs for physical distancing and other accommodations or precautions.

Prohibited behaviours

Behaviours that are prohibited and which may result in consequences when a violation of the Code of Ethics and Community Conduct is found include, but are not limited to:

  • harassment in any form, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, denigrating jokes, stereotyping, or a recurring pattern of microinvalidations, microassaults, microaggressions, or microinsults;
  • physical abuse, intimidation, disregard for another’s safety, as well as intentional, unwelcome physical behaviours (in-person or remotely), including, but not limited to, stalking, physical contact, simulated physical contact, and aggressive or intimidating displays and/or body language;
  • verbal or written abuse, intimidation (in-person or remotely), use of coded language, or deliberate outing of an aspect of someone’s identity, including, but not limited to: harmful or negative comments related to race, colour, national or ethnic origin, caste, immigration status, religion, age, marital status, parental status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, body size, socioeconomic background, level of education, disability, or veteran status;
  • violating previously communicated (verbally or nonverbally) physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries of others through the continuation of otherwise prohibited behaviours or through verbal or written comments founded on any personal aspect of another individual;
  • displaying or distributing of images or recordings involving provocative behaviour, bigotry, nudity, sexual activities, or physical force against oneself, another person, or a community, including inappropriate use of nudity and/or sexual images in public spaces — whether physical or virtual — or in presentations;
  • threatening (implied or real) physical, emotional, professional, or financial harm, including threatening or stalking any attendee, speaker, volunteer, exhibitor, GA4GH staff member, service provider, other meeting guest, or anyone participating in any other GA4GH community spaces online or in person;
  • photographing, recording, or video-taping of others and/or the dissemination or distribution of photographs, recordings and video-tapings of others without their consent;
  • engaging in the following prohibited behaviours related to communications:
    • disrespectful communication that does not support the communication and discussion of the topic at hand;
    • directly reproducing visual materials (e.g. no posting of photos of slides or posters) unless permission is obtained from the presenter or if they have already made this information freely available in an open-source forum;
    • copying or taking screenshots of session recordings, Q&A, or session chat activity taking place in the virtual space where the presenter has stated that the information should be kept confidential (otherwise, all materials are considered free to be shared);
    • sharing presentations, postings, and messages which contain promotional materials, special offers, job offers, product announcements, or a solicitation for services that have not been expressly approved through a partnership agreement;
    • sustained disruption of discussion or repeatedly asking disingenuous questions under a guise of sincerity;
  • accepting inappropriate favours, such as bribery, excessive gifts, line jumping, or playing favourites, from staff, members, invited experts, participants, or any other member of the GA4GH community or broader public;
  • violating any ethics policy identified in section III as applicable to the GA4GH community;
  • retaliating during or after the reporting process by any individual involved in a potential violation of the Code of Ethics and Community Conduct, including against the reporting party/target/victim, witnesses, and those reported to have engaged in prohibited behaviour(s);
  • inciting, encouraging, or condoning prohibited behaviour, as listed in this section, including but not limited to harassment in any form;
  • any other behaviours that may reasonably be assumed to have the effect of creating, contributing to, or maintaining an environment that is hostile toward or damaging to a person or group. 

Reporting process

Any GA4GH member or anyone participating in a GA4GH-sponsored or hosted event or activity can report harmful behaviour or a potential violation of this Code via the reporting form, to the external Safe GA4GH Officer Paula Brantner, or in person or by email to any member of the Safe GA4GH Committee (SGC):

When responding to a report, GA4GH will prioritise respecting each person’s safety and confidentiality while also protecting the GA4GH environment. GA4GH has contracted with an external Safe GA4GH Officer to offer confidential reporting to GA4GH participants who feel uncomfortable making an internal complaint. The reporting party’s identity will be kept confidential if they so wish, until and unless there comes a time that disclosure is needed to address the problem, and they agree to the disclosure of their identity.

There is no absolute deadline or statute of limitations for reporting potential violations to GA4GH (including for violations that occurred prior to the establishment of this Code). Reporting parties are encouraged to come forward at any time so that any harm to reporting parties may be addressed and that a safe and inclusive environment for all members can be maintained.

GA4GH will ensure the timely investigation of reported allegations. A report initiated in writing to the Safe GA4GH Officer will be acknowledged and reviewed in a timely manner. At the reporting party’s request and if appropriate, the Safe GA4GH Officer will initiate a preliminary investigation and will recommend to the SGC whether to continue with a full investigation.

Consequences for a violation of the Code may include, but are not limited to:

  • a verbal or written request to cease and desist conduct in violation of the Code;
  • removal of messages and solicitations and banning the sources of those solicitations;
  • removal from a conference, associated hotel accommodations, a meeting, a room, or an event, virtual or in-person, without warning or refund and at cost to the attendee; or a ban on future attendance at conferences or events;
  • limiting rights to participate in GA4GH activities, committees, or leadership for a specified time, including specified remedial actions;
  • suspending members from GA4GH leadership or membership for a designated time or with conditions for participation, up to and including expulsion from GA4GH membership.

Procedures for reviewing cases of potential violations by members and participants will follow those outlined in the current version of the Procedures for reviewing reported violations of the Code of Ethics and Community Conduct.

Acknowledgements and licence

The GA4GH Code of Ethics and Community Conduct was inspired by the W3C Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

An early draft was put forward for open comment by the GA4GH community, which was then further refined by Paula Brantner of Accountability Ignited (PB Work Solutions).

This Code of Ethics and Community Conduct is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 licence.

Past versions

Read and download past versions of this code.