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The GISSA Code of Ethics

Structure of the document



Definition of Terms

GISc

Geographic Information Science. (Focus here is on the generic 'Science', rather than the proprietery 'Systems')

GIS
Geographic Information System. (Focus here is on the systems and technology used in GISc.

GIS practitioners
Any person, regardless of his / her NQF level who is operating in the Geographic Information Science Industry.

NQF
South African National Qualifications Framework

NSIF
South African National Spatial Information Framework

SAQA
South African National Qualifications Authority

Objectives of this document

  • To serve as a foundation for ethical decision-making.
  • To be broad enough to be applicable in most situations.
  • To provide direction and goals for the GIS practitioners.

Obligations to Society

As GIS practitioners we recognise that our work impacts greatly on society in general, but in particular that the information we provide may be used for decisions that can influence all or parts of society as well as generations to come. We therefore need to guard against civil abuses.

Legal responsibilities

As citizens and residents of the Republic of South Africa we will obey the laws of the country. In particular, we will familiarise ourselves and fully comply with the new Spatial Information Bill.

Social responsibilities

We have an important responsibility towards the society we live in. In case of any conflict of interest, the interest of society will be our deciding factor. Therefore, we as the GIS practitioners shall:

  1. Promote procedures that protect the health, safety and welfare of people and the environment as well as meet individual and institutional objectives
  2. Consider the short and long-term relevancy of what we provide
  3. When presenting or releasing information, we will consider immediate consequences as well as the future impacts of our work. Our procedures may require reviewing social and environmental impacts (e.g. environmental impact reports).
  4. We will represent our organisations in a socially responsible manner.
    • We will guard against presenting information in isolation and we will seek the advice of co-workers and experts.
    • We will outline the options for the proposed action.
    • We will consult with all the relevant persons and groups.
    • We will promote and articulate social responsibility and ethical behaviour in the organisation.
  5. We will contribute to society's well being
    • We accept that a 'well society' includes both a safe social environment, as well as healthy natural environment.
    • We will be cognisant of other cultural values. We will attempt to understand the culture and value systems affected by our projects, and establish project management procedures that do not negatively impact the worldviews of others.
    • We will respect the privacy of others
    • We will observe the privacy of others by preventing disclosure of personal information.
    • We will use only that information necessary for the project and will not collect or distribute irrelevant data that unnecessarily compromises an individual's or an institution's privacy.
    • We will prevent the release of information that may damage or hurt individuals or institutions.
  6. We will avoid causing harm
    • We will avoid injury or other negative consequences (i.e. loss of information, loss of or damage to property, loss of life, or negative environmental impacts).
  7. We will evaluate moral and legal imperatives
    • If faced with an ethical dilemma, we will strive to do what is right, not just what is legal. To assist in making the decision we will recognise a moral issue, get the facts, evaluate alternative actions, and then review the results of the action taken.

Do the Best Work Possible

As GIS practitioners we are proud of our vocation. Therefore we will:

  1. Be objective, diligent, and fully apply our education and skills.
  2. Practice integrity and not be swayed by the demands of others when these are against this code.
  3. Provide full, clear, comprehensive and accurate information regarding all aspects of the work we do.
  4. Strive to do what is right, not just what is legal.

Contribute to the Community to the Extent Possible

As GIS practitioners we recognise our dependence on the communities we live in. Therefore we will:

  1. Strive to make our data and findings widely available. In this regard we especially recognise the role of the NSIF in South Africa.
  2. Strive for broad citizen involvement.
  3. Donate our services to community organisations. In this regard we especially recognise the need for involvement with GISSA and the SAQA GIS Standards Generating Body.

Speak Out About Issues

As GIS practitioners we recognise the value of the contributions and opinions of everyone in our community and flowing from this, the need to communicate and to be transparent. Therefore we will:

  1. Give our opinion about public issues, especially those related to our personal expertise.
  2. Listen to those of our profession and give heed to what they say.
  3. Call attention to unpractitioners work or breach of this code of ethics by others. However, we will not do so publicly, and if possible, we will first take our concerns to the person/s or organisation suspected of such behaviour. Only if this does not provide satisfaction will we take escalating action. Such escalating action will include:
    • Discussion with the employer (if the matter concerns an individual)
    • Discussion with the client (if the matter concerns an organisation involved in a project)
    • Discussion with GISSA
    • Discussion with the local press if other actions has no effect.
  4. Admit when we ourselves make mistakes.

Obligations to Employers and funding organisation

As GIS practitioners we acknowledge that we are indebted to those who provide the funding for us to do our work. Without employers and / or funding organisations there will not be a GIS vocation. In particular we recognise that we have been hired to deliver needed products and services and that our employers (or Funding organisations) expects quality work and practitioners conduct. Therefore, we as GIS practitioners shall:

Deliver Quality Work

  1. We will ensure that we will accept only those tasks that we are qualified for.
  2. We will keep ourselves current in the field of GI Science through readings and targeted practitioners development.
  3. We will identify and manage risks, both for our employer / funders and ourselves.
  4. We will constantly seek to define alternative strategies to reach the goals of our employers / funder, as well as the implications of each.
  5. We will ensure that our work is well documented and that others will be able to continue our work even when we are not present. This includes both metadata and program documentation.

Have a practitioners Relationship

  1. We will hold all information we work with confidential, unless we have specifically authorised to release it.
  2. We will avoid all conflicts of interest with clients and employers, but when these are unavoidable, we will disclose this to the relevant people / organisations.
  3. We will avoid soliciting, accepting, or offering any gratuity or benefit connected to a potential or existing business or working relationship.
  4. We will accept work reviews as a means to improve our performance.
  5. We will honour our contracts and assigned responsibilities.
  6. We will accept the decisions of our employers / funders, unless these are illegal or unethical.
  7. We will help develop security, backup, retention, and disposal rules.
  8. We will acknowledge and accept rules about the personal use of employer resources. This includes computers, data, telecommunication equipment, the Internet and other resources.

Be Honest in Representations

  1. We will state our practitioners qualifications truthfully.
  2. We will make honest proposals that will allow the work to be completed for the resources requested.
  3. We will deliver an hour's work with earnest effort and best thought for an hour's pay.
  4. We will never use any information coming to us confidentially in the performance of our duties as a means for making private profit
  5. We will seek to find and employ more efficient and economical ways of getting tasks accomplished
  6. We will describe products fully.
  7. We will be forthcoming about limitations of our work. This includes data, software, assumptions, models used, methods, and analysis.

Obligations to Colleagues and the Profession

The GIS practitioners recognises the value of being part of a community of other practitioners. Together, we support each other and add to the stature of the field. To this end, the GIS practitioners will:

Respect the Work of Others.

  1. We will cite the work of others whenever possible and appropriate.
  2. We will honour the intellectual property rights of others. This includes their rights in terms of software, data and models.
  3. We will accept and provide fair critical comments on practitioners work.
  4. We will recognise the limitations of our knowledge and skills, know the skills of other practitioners, and draw on them to complement our expertise as needed. This includes both those in other disciplines and GIS practitioners with deeper skills in critical sub-areas of the field.
  5. We will work smoothly and capably with others in GIS and other disciplines.
  6. We will respect existing working relationships. These include formal and informal relationships between employees and employers and between clients and contractors or vendors. We will avoid interfering with these relationships and will not attempt to supplant another GIS practitioners, vendor or organisation.
  7. We will deal honestly and fairly with prospective employees, contractors, and vendors.

Contribute to the Discipline

  1. We will publish results so others can learn about our contributions. Our audiences may include the public, students, policy-makers or other practitioners; our mediums may include the GISSA and other journals, conference proceedings, or self-publication on the web or otherwise. We will disclose sufficient details to substantiate our conclusions.
  2. We will volunteer our time for practitioners educational and organisational efforts, local or national.
  3. We will support individual colleagues in their practitioners development. We will give special attention to underrepresented groups.
  4. We will report unpractitioners activity.

Obligations to Individuals

We as GIS practitioners recognises the impact of our work on individual people and will strive to avoid harming anyone. Therefore, the GIS practitioners will:

Respect Privacy

  1. We will protect individual privacy, especially about sensitive information.
  2. We will be especially careful with new information created about an individual through GIS-based manipulations (such as geo-coding) or the combination of two or more databases.

Respect Individuals

  1. We will encourage individual autonomy. We will allow individuals to:
    • Withhold consent from being added to a database
    • Correct information about themselves in a database
    • Remove themselves from a database.
  2. We will avoid undue intrusions into the lives of individuals.
  3. We will be truthful when disclosing information about an individual.
  4. We will treat all individuals equally, without regard to race, gender, or other unique characteristics.


Bibliography and Further reading

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