Public statement from the MICCAI Board -Code of Conduct- Policy and Apology
Saturday 8th February 2020
After the MICCAI 2019 meeting in Shenzhen, and especially in light of the discussion at the lunchtime meeting of the Women in MICCAI, the MICCAI Board has met to further consider its Code of Conduct policy and its response to a MICCAI 2018 Code of Conduct violation. A variety of additional plans were proposed and were in the midst of being considered for action.
During this period, a letter was sent to the MICCAI Board signed by 107 colleagues in our community that sent a message that further action and more clear communication from the Board was necessary regarding these issues.
With this new public statement, we would like to apologize to the target and witnesses of the MICCAI 2018 incident as well as to the community for a number of errors the Board made in addressing this case, and communicate our plans to address these shortcomings going forward. The public statement is an integration of plans that were being made via Board discussions and suggestions made in the letter from our colleagues. We want to thank the colleagues who wrote and signed the letter for their ideas and suggestions and fully acknowledge that this influenced our response written in the new public statement.
The MICCAI Society Board
Dear Colleagues in the MICCAI community,
We are writing to you as a follow up to our previous communication about a MICCAI 2018 Code of Conduct violation that was stated here.
With this follow-on statement, we want to sincerely and publicly apologize to both the victim and the supporting witnesses that they had to endure this awful experience at MICCAI 2018 where another attendee violated the MICCAI Code of Conduct. In addition, we also want to publicly and clearly apologize for the errors we made as a Board in the handling of this case.
Unfortunately, at MICCAI 2018 we were ill-prepared to properly handle incident reports for violations of the Code of Conduct, which undeniably led to mistakes for which we are very sorry. We have since improved our process of handling code of conduct violations, and separated the investigating process from the MICCAI leadership, via safety officers external to the board and an external consultant. We have yet to fully formalize the revised procedure and expect to publish a draft within the next several months. We welcome input from the community on this and are currently considering different ways to do this.
We also regret a series of miscommunications and misstatements by the Board regarding the issue of confidentiality, most especially in correspondence with the victim and witnesses. While full confidentiality was requested in an effort to prevent retaliation towards the victim and witnesses and to prevent other potential problems, in retrospect this policy was not well-stated. After further discussion and investigation of this issue, we have come to understand that the confidentiality that should be maintained by all parties in a Code of Conduct case is about the process and the investigation and not about the facts of the case itself. All people involved with a case own their experiences regarding what went on during an incident and those experiences cannot be taken away from them.
Furthermore, there should be absolutely no doubt that the behavior reported in the MICCAI 2018 incident is a severe violation of our values and our Code of Conduct; it is inexcusable, damaging, and cannot be tolerated in our Society. In this and all cases, violators are informed that if they violate any conditions stated or have any future violations of the MICCAI Code of Conduct, that this will result in significant further sanctions. Indeed, communications with violators have and will include the following statement: “We cannot overstate the gravity of this situation. As stated in the Code of Conduct: Unacceptable behavior may cause removal
from, or denial of access to, current or future MICCAI events; suspension or termination of membership; revocation of any awards or other recognition from MICCAI; and other actions, without refund of any applicable registration fees or costs."
In retrospect, the actions taken initially after the MICCAI 2018 event were an inadequate response. Although we have already made some changes, there is still room for discussion on what procedures and consequences are appropriate and needed to prevent such behavior at future MICCAI Society events. Our purpose is to ensure that the reported or similar behavior will not occur again and that MICCAI is welcoming and safe for all attendees. This requires a range of possible consequences proportional to the severity of the offense. We do maintain that in some cases, relatively mild consequences such as a formal reprimand or one-year ban from attending the conference can be sufficient to ensure everyone’s safety. But we have heard, loud and clear, demands from some members of the community to connect more significant sanctions to violations of the Code of Conduct. We will take this into account in future decisions and we will continue to rely on an external consultant to advise us on appropriate consequences for individual cases.
With respect to these issues, we would also like you to know that the Board has continued to consider its position on how to take disciplinary action regarding violation issues and is actively working to address this. We are in the process of amending our policies to impose stricter and farther-reaching sanctions on any and all violators of our Code of Conduct. For instance, we are considering excluding sanctioned Code-of-Conduct violators from being eligible to receive a Society award (e.g. Fellow or Enduring Impact Award) or to serve in a major MICCAI organizational role (e.g. MICCAI Board, Conference Chair, Workshop Chair).
These items will be made public once they are fully discussed and approved by the Board.
Finally, we are working to make the MICCAI conference a better and safer place to be in the future, so that all attendees feel welcome. We are working to better manage all aspects of the meetings, including the social events, to prevent unacceptable scenarios from happening and so that there are clear safety protocols in place. At MICCAI 2019 we have addressed this issue by discussing the Code of Conduct and the 2018 incident in the opening remarks of the conference as well as via flyers in the conference bag and posters throughout the venue explaining the Code of Conduct and how to report violations. We hope to improve this further
by lowering the threshold to report, for instance by including a larger group of volunteers as point of contact (including young researchers) who may advise and help report incidents to the safety officers. We are looking into organizing a bystander workshop or similar event at MICCAI 2020 to encourage all conference participants to speak up against poor conduct. If you have further suggestions to improve this, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We truly believe that MICCAI is a quality meeting that continues to grow and be strong technically and scientifically, but we also understand that there is work to be done to make it a truly welcoming and safe meeting to come to. We pledge to make this happen and hope you will all help us bring this to fruition.
The MICCAI Society Board