GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 38-6
Presentation Time: 3:20 PM


ABBOTT Jr., David M., Ethics Committee Chairman, American Institute of Professional Geologists, 5055 Tamarac St, Denver, CO 80238,

Protection of the public’s health, safety, and welfare is among the main ethical responsibilities of geoscientists listed in GSA’s Code of Conduct. How do we inform the public about unethical practice that violates this ethical responsibility? The answer is that the geoscience profession does a very poor job of letting the public know about unethical practitioners. Two recent cases illustrate aspects of this problem.

On 6 June 2016 the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy announced the removal of Herman Tso from the register of members for being unwilling or unable to provide AusIMM’s Ethics Committee with definitive proof that he had received the degree on which his membership was based. Tso’s AusIMM membership qualified him claim competent person status when preparing technical reports pursuant to the JORC Code thereby deceiving potential investors in the companies holding the properties on which Tso reported. Tso’s resume included membership in several geoscience organizations including the Geological Society of America. Tso’s dishonest claims concerning his education violate GSA’s Code of Conduct. But GSA has no formal procedure for disciplining Tso for his dishonesty.

In January 2015 the American Institute of Professional Geologists concluded a disciplinary proceeding involving formal charges of unethical and incompetent conduct when the respondent resigned his membership. The respondent was licensed as a geologist by 11 US states. AIPG informed these states of AIPG disciplinary action. However, state licensing boards only deal with unethical practice if the property involved is within the state’s borders. This jurisdictional restriction has allowed the respondent to retain most of his licenses.

Because there is no central registry of those who have been found to have practiced unethically or incompetently, members of the public have a very difficult time identifying those few geoscientists who have practiced unethically and/or incompetently. This allows unethical practice to continue.

  • Abbott Public & unethical practice.pdf (224.7 kB)