AMS Guidelines for Ethical Conduct


The American Musicological Society (hereafter referred to as AMS or the Society) is dedicated to the advancement of scholarship in the various fields of music through research, learning, and teaching. As a community with shared interests, the AMS acknowledges that free inquiry depends on the scholarly integrity of its practitioners. Our integrity as musicologists demands constant self-scrutiny in the practice of our profession. This statement provides guidelines for ethical conduct by members of the Society, both as individual scholars and as employees and members of professional institutions and organizations.


Members of the AMS recognize an obligation to uphold and promote the following basic principles of ethical conduct in our profession:

(1) freedom of inquiry and the widest possible access to information of use to scholars,

(2) honesty and integrity in teaching, in scholarly investigation and in the evaluation and transmission of the results of scholarship,

(3) respect for diverse points of view and recognition of the potential worth of scholarship on any aspect of music or any subject related to music,

(4) recognition of the intellectual property rights of other scholars, institutions and publishers, and of composers, performers, and informants,

(5) fairness and honesty in evaluations of colleagues and students,

(6) avoidance of any conflict of interest, or appearance of a conflict of interest, in processes of evaluating the work of colleagues and students, and

7) commitment to extend to colleagues and students equal opportunities for full participation in the professional community. Members of the AMS should neither condone harassment in any form nor disregard complaints of harassment or inequitable treatment.

Questions or complaints about the conduct of any of the Society’s programs should be addressed to the chairperson of the relevant committee, or to any officer or member of the Board of Directors. Issues that do not find a routine resolution may be considered by the Board of Directors at their regular meetings or in cases of special urgency by the Executive Committee of the Board.



The AMS declares freedom of inquiry to be fundamental to the scholarly enterprise and affirms that musicologists should have ample latitude in accomplishing individual scholarly objectives. Free inquiry in the scholarly community assumes a sincere commitment to reasoned discourse, intellectual honesty, professional integrity, diversity of scholarly interests and approaches; openness to constructive, respectful debate and to alternative interpretations. Members of the AMS should defend scholarly practices and the right to free inquiry against unfounded attacks or intimidation, whether from inside or outside the scholarly community.

The AMS repudiates any attempt to impede or to compromise free inquiry on the basis of race, gender, religion, nationality or national origin, age, physical ability or disability, marital status, sexual orientation, political beliefs or affiliation, chosen research or performance area, or employment status. The AMS recognizes that these categories intersect: we seek to support vulnerable members of our Society and to create an environment free of harassment. (See the AMS Policy on Harassment, Guidelines on Accessibility and Accommodations for Members with Disabilities, and Statement of Fair Practice.) Further, those who complain of discrimination, participate in an investigation, or file charges must be protected against retaliation. The AMS recognizes and embraces the concept of diversity in scholarly interests and approaches, and it endorses the “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (2014),” prepared by the American Association of University Professors (hereafter AAUP).


The AMS advocates unimpeded, equal, and non-discriminatory access to all types of research materials and facilities in the possession of institutions dedicated to scholarship. Such access is understood to entail reciprocal obligations to research materials on the part of scholars: AMS members should avoid actions that might imperil such materials or prejudice access by others; cooperate with fellow scholars in making the results of individual research available in a timely fashion; and facilitate the access of others to research materials under their control. While scholars should seek appropriate avenues to challenge unwarranted censorship or infringements of intellectual freedom, they must also respect legitimate and appropriate restrictions as defined by law and as set by libraries, archives, and other institutions holding and preserving documents and other materials. Musicologists should also respect and protect the wishes for personal privacy and other legitimate wishes of interlocutors and holders of private archival materials. At the same time, members of the AMS should challenge unreasonable restrictions on scholarly use of research materials and facilities.


Since musicological scholarship is an ongoing, cumulative process that fosters significant discoveries and meaningful interpretations of many kinds, previous accomplishments and newly introduced ideas should be recognized appropriately. While debate is an integral and desirable part of scholarly exchange, it should take place in an atmosphere of mutual regard.

Our integrity as scholars and teachers implies a commitment to develop arguments responsibly and to give a fair hearing to, or reading of, the arguments of colleagues and students alike. Relevant supporting evidence should be presented in a well-reasoned manner, free of misrepresentation and distortion; evidence that contravenes one’s operating hypothesis should not be suppressed.



The AMS regards plagiarism and other misappropriations of the work of others as unacceptable. We must acknowledge in an appropriate manner our reliance on the work of others, whether they be students or mature scholars, whether our sources are published or unpublished, oral or written. We follow the authors of the Modern Language Association’s Statement of Professional Ethics in adopting this definition from Joseph Gibaldi’s MLA Style Manual (6.1 and chapter 2):

“Using another person’s ideas or expressions in your writing without acknowledging the source constitutes plagiarism…. [T]o plagiarize is to give the impression that you wrote or thought something that you in fact borrowed from someone, and to do so is a violation of professional ethics…. Forms of plagiarism include the failure to give appropriate acknowledgment when repeating another’s wording or particularly apt phrase, paraphrasing another’s argument, and presenting another’s line of thinking.”

Members of the AMS should be equally scrupulous when translating the words and ideas of others from one language into another.^3


AMS members should know and respect the laws of copyright as they apply to musical works and performance as well as to language. Under law, copyright privileges apply to works that are original with the author and “fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed” (Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C.102 [1988]). The AMS recognizes that ideas presented in an electronic format are entitled to the same protections, including considerations of plagiarism, as any other work.

In research and teaching alike, AMS members should be mindful of the factors to be considered in judging Fair Use of copyrighted material: the purpose and character of the use; the nature of the work used; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the work. As authors of scholarly works, AMS members should obtain permission before publishing quoted material, musical examples, sound recordings, facsimiles, and illustrations in ways that exceed the normal practice of Fair Use.

Except in cases of Fair Use, AMS members should obtain the permission of authors before citing or otherwise using their unpublished work, ideas, and words, and before citing or reproducing unpublished words, ideas, music, and musical performances of those serving as subjects and interlocutors. They should also afford those authors, subjects, and interlocutors the opportunity to check any such citation or reproduction for accuracy before publishing it. In cases of musical performances, performers should be appropriately credited and compensated. For more detail, see the AMS’s Best Practices in the Use of Copyrighted Materials in Music Scholarship and Best Practices in Digital Scholarship.


When AMS members undertake collaborative projects, they should specify from the outset the responsibilities, conditions of compensation, rights of authorship, and other relevant rights involved in such a project. When such agreements need to be modified as the project evolves, all modifications should be agreed upon jointly. Teachers who undertake collaborative projects with students or include students’ work in their own projects should be especially vigilant in seeing to it that rights of authorship are protected. The same vigilance should extend to collaborative projects involving senior and junior faculty.



In submitting work for publication, public presentation, funding, prizes, or professional advancement, AMS members should be certain that the work they submit is their own and that the sources from which they have drawn and the role that others may have played in preparing that work have been properly acknowledged. In submitting work for publication, they must advise the appropriate parties if the work has previously been published or accepted for publication, in any language. Submission of an article manuscript to a journal grants first rights of publication. When submitting a book manuscript to a publisher, an author should inform the editor if other publishers are also considering that manuscript. When an editor or publisher has failed to contact the author to accept or reject a submitted manuscript within a reasonable time, the author may submit it elsewhere after giving written notification to that editor or publisher.[1]

When working with a journal or press, authors should be aware of and abide by the journal’s or press’s policy regarding the confidentiality of peer reviews. When in doubt, peer reviews should be treated as confidential correspondence. Although it is common practice for an author to consult with a colleague or mentor about responding to peer reviews, the content of reviews should not be circulated or published, including on social media, unless an author receives permission from the peer reviewer, through the editor.


The editors of musicological journals should publish clear statements about intellectual scope and editorial practices, and provide clear guidelines for submission. Publishers of musicological works should likewise make clear what steps they expect authors to follow in submitting their work and what procedures they themselves follow in deciding on publication.

Editors of musicological periodicals and books are responsible for securing qualified and appropriate referees and for seeing to it that evaluations of submitted manuscripts are completed in a timely fashion. Editors should solicit additional evaluations if they suspect that any review stems from narrow-mindedness, self-interest, personal antipathy, or hasty and unsubstantiated judgment. In reporting their decisions, editors should convey the substance of the referees’ evaluations even-handedly to the authors.

Any statement of acceptance for publication should specify the terms of acceptance and the approximate date of intended publication, and provide clear instructions for any required revisions. Acceptance of a manuscript obliges the editor and publisher to publish the work and to observe, as closely as possible, the stated terms and date of publication. If the intended publication date is exceeded by an unusual period of time without written explanation from the publisher, the author may submit elsewhere, after giving written notification to the publisher or editor. Editors and authors should cooperate in an atmosphere of mutual respect in arriving at a final text that meets the scholarly and literary standards of both author and publisher.


Members of the AMS, when acting on behalf of the Society, or when asked by editors, professional organizations, granting agencies, or employing institutions to judge the work of other scholars (whether for publication, public presentation, funding, prizes, or professional advancement), are responsible for declaring any conflict of interest arising from a personal or professional relationship with the scholar whose work is being evaluated.  They should decline to participate if they cannot evaluate the work honestly, impartially, and competently. In agreeing to serve as referees, members of the AMS should never misrepresent the nature of their relationship to the candidate. In judging abstracts for AMS programs, whether regional or national, members of program committees should evaluate submissions according to the criteria stated in the call for papers, respecting the potential worth of scholarship on any aspect of music or any subject related to music and refraining from discussing or voting on abstracts that present a conflict of interest.

In reviewing the work of other scholars, members of the AMS should be thorough and conscientious, upholding high standards of scholarship and welcoming perspectives and methods different from their own. When supplying written reports, evaluators should make their standards and process of judgment clear, for the benefit of both the authors of the work and those who commission the evaluation. It should be understood that an editor or granting agency may go back to an impartial reviewer who submitted a negative review to inquire whether a new draft or revised proposal has been improved to the reviewer’s satisfaction. If, in evaluating a particular case, a referee has sought the advice of others, the referee should report these facts to other committee members or judges to avoid a hidden conflict of interest.

Evaluators should treat article manuscripts and all communications with editors related to peer review work as strictly confidential. They should not comment on the manuscript on social media or in conversations with colleagues; publish or circulate any part of an unpublished manuscript; or make use of original research without permission.




In all matters relating to employment, the AMS strongly endorses the 1976 AAUP “Statement on Discrimination.” The AMS supports the principles of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity for all scholars, and urges departments and schools of music to pursue programs and policies that promote diversity in the composition of their faculty.

In applying for jobs and professional positions as well as grants and prizes, and in describing themselves in publications and public presentation, AMS members must state their credentials honestly and accurately.

When resigning a position, AMS members should give timely written notice in accordance with institutional regulations. They should not accept another appointment involving concurrent obligations for the duration of the existing appointment without the permission of the appropriate administrator.


Ethical professional conduct requires recognition of the inequalities of power inherent in professional relationships. Abuse of power within any professional relationship is defined here as harassment.

The AMS condemns harassment in any form.

Harassment, whether verbal or physical, consists of discriminatory behavior that may be based on, but is not exclusive to, the victim’s race, gender or gender expression, religion, nationality or national origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation, political beliefs or affiliation, physical ability or disability, chosen research or performance area, or employment status. It may involve members of the AMS in their relationships not only with students and colleagues, but also with professional associates and support staff in all educational, research, and employment settings.

In a professional environment, harassment creates an intimidating or offensive atmosphere that compromises the freedoms, development, and performance of its victims and undermines the atmosphere of trust essential to the academic and musicological enterprise. In their work with students and colleagues, professional associates and support staff, members of the AMS are obliged not to abuse the power with which they are entrusted, but rather to create settings that foster respect for the rights of others.

The specific term “sexual harassment” describes a wide range of behaviors within the more general category of harassment. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” By emphasizing another person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, sexual harassment compromises that person’s professional and academic freedom and sense of personal dignity, and undermines equality of opportunity for professional and educational development.

In addition, consensual sexual relations that might be appropriate in other circumstances may be inappropriate in a professional setting between a member of the profession and any individual for whom he or she has any direct professional responsibility or over whom he or she exerts authority. Such relationships may undermine the atmosphere of trust upon which professional conduct is predicated and may compromise professional judgment.

The AMS asks members who serve as Deans and Directors of music schools, chairs of departments of music and musicology, and as administrators of non-academic institutions, to support their institutions in the enforcement of existing federal regulations prohibiting all forms of harassment and to publicize grievance procedures available to those who have been subjected to harassment.

Institutions should ensure that proper grievance procedures are carried out, respecting the employment rights and privacy of all involved and protecting the confidentiality of materials under review.

For more information, see the AMS Policy on Harassment.


Musicologists are often called upon to inform the public about matters of musical interest, whether through public lectures, panel discussions, television and radio appearances, or newspaper articles. As these are all vehicles for disseminating scholarship, the ethical codes governing scholarship apply. AMS members should be vigilant about giving due credit to the work of others, finding appropriate means to do so even in media that do not readily lend themselves to such acknowledgment.

In the public arena, AMS members should take care to distinguish between their own personal opinions, beliefs, and activities and those of their employing institutions. When appearing before the public as private individuals, they should avoid the appearance of speaking for their institutions.


The research of many musicologists depends upon the expertise and generosity of scholars, archives, and libraries in foreign countries. AMS members should be particularly vigilant in the proper use of research materials and in acknowledging contributions of colleagues abroad.

AMS members working abroad have an obligation to respect the laws and regulations of foreign governments and institutions and to honor any conditions of permission granted. At the same time, however, in pursuing their objective of advancing knowledge about music, scholars should challenge unnecessary restrictions on research and publication. Members of the profession should abide by the 1970 UNESCO convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property (including manuscripts, books, music prints, rare instruments, and other artifacts) and should not cooperate with individuals or institutions that do not respect this agreement.


Members of the AMS should respect their coworkers, nonprofessional staff, and students and should not exploit others by requiring them to do inappropriate, unrealistic, unhealthy, or hazardous work.


Teaching, whether in a classroom setting or one-on-one, is one of several avenues for disseminating scholarship, and thus the ethical codes governing scholarship apply to teaching as well. In their roles as teachers, AMS members should maintain a strictly professional relationship with students while in a position of power over them, judging each student on merit alone. They should promote an atmosphere of respect for the personal difference and dignity of each student, and protect students’ rights to confidentiality and privacy. The conditions for free exchange of ideas can be created only when such rights are observed.

Those who teach have a special responsibility to their students to be models of ethical behavior in their own scholarship and to educate students concerning the ethical use of sources. When engaged in collaborative projects with their students, or when using students’ work in their own projects, teachers should appropriately acknowledge the contributions of their students and recognize their rights of authorship.

The AMS endorses the AAUP statement on Academic Freedom (see above, I.A.). Teachers must have the academic freedom to introduce ideas and use materials in the manner they think is most effective for instruction, recognizing that the general content and function of courses may be determined by an appropriate administrator or group of faculty. While teachers have the right to express their personal, political, social, and religious beliefs to students, they should express those beliefs outside the classroom unless they are directly relevant to the subject material of the course being taught.

Teachers have an obligation to pass on their knowledge honestly and without favoritism, to keep abreast of recent scholarship, and to present different interpretations of subject material in a fair and balanced way. They should clearly present their course objectives and their expectations of students, and provide timely, candid, and constructive evaluations of student work. Grading should be fair, impartial, and based solely on course content. Written evaluations of students should be timely and candid. While it is appropriate as part of the educational process for faculty to discuss and evaluate student performance, teachers participating in such group evaluations should avoid using language intended to bias other teachers against individual students or groups of students.

Teachers have an obligation to serve as conscientious and frank advisors and advocates for students in their career preparations. They should provide not only honest assessments of a student’s progress over the course of his or her education, but also well-informed judgments as to an individual’s possible employment opportunities in the various kinds of work for which musicologists are qualified.


Even as individual scholars and employees, AMS members help to define the institutions they serve and represent, and they should work to promote high standards of ethical conduct in those institutions. In accordance with principles of fairness and equity, members of the Society should take part in articulating clear guidelines for scholarly integrity and due process, for fair and equitable conditions in the workplace, for fairness and equity in evaluations of professional competency and productivity, and for treatment of independent scholars.


Institutions and their representatives are responsible for upholding accepted standards of scholarly integrity and for disciplining scholars who violate such standards. All employees, including part-time employees, should be afforded the protection of due process through clear and fair grievance procedures. It is the responsibility of institutions to protect equally the rights of those initiating complaints and those accused.


While the AMS cannot legislate the activities of individual institutions, schools, or music departments, its members subscribe to the view that the general interests of the discipline will be best served when all members of the profession enjoy favorable working conditions. Such conditions will more likely prevail where the following principles govern the administration of both academic and non-academic institutions:

Tasks and responsibilities should be shared and privileges fairly awarded. Within academic institutions teaching loads should be distributed equitably, and individuals should be consulted regarding the scheduling and assignment of courses. Facilities and services for research and teaching should be made available to all faculty members of a department or school. All faculty members of a department or school should have the opportunity to participate in decisions regarding curriculum and governance, and faculty should participate in peer review and personnel decisions, when appropriate.

Established members of the profession have an obligation to advise and counsel their early-career colleagues and should provide an environment that encourages intellectual growth, a free and civil exchange of ideas, scholarly achievement, and career development. Those in contingent, part-time, or temporary positions should receive adequate compensation and benefits for the work they perform and should be given due consideration for full-time or permanent positions when such positions become available. See The AMS and Contingent Faculty.


Fairness and equity in recruiting candidates require that all job openings—whether for temporary, part-time, full-time, tenure-track, or tenured appointments—be appropriately advertised. To ensure that all professionally qualified candidates have an opportunity to compete for the job on a non-discriminatory basis, institutions should list openings, as appropriate, in trade publications and with suitable agencies. Significant changes in a job description should not be made unless the institution has announced the reopening of a search. Hiring committees should observe best practices in avoiding bias.

Applications should be promptly acknowledged and candidates informed about the status of their applications. Individuals not under consideration should be notified promptly. During the interview process, an applicant’s rights to privacy and confidentiality should be respected and protected within the spirit of federal, state, and local anti-discriminatory laws. Interviewers and administrators should recuse themselves from the selection process if there are conflicts of interest. Offers and acceptances of employment should be made in writing.

Evaluation of credentials and performance should be based upon established standards of competence agreed to by members of the institution. The institution should provide a newly-appointed employee with a written statement of the criteria for evaluation by which he or she will be judged, along with clear guidelines and timetable for the evaluation process. The appropriate senior faculty, relevant supervisor, or other committee of review should undertake periodic written evaluations to ensure that the employee receives constructive criticism and guidance during his or her probationary period at the institution.

Employees should not be subjected to arbitrary or capricious cancellation of positions or termination of appointment, nor to changes in the criteria for employment without a fair opportunity to adapt to the changes required.

Policies for termination of employment should adhere to standards of due process that are comparable to those recommended by the AAUP in its 1940 “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” its “Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Procedures,” (1989-90) and its “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure” (2014). The employee should receive prompt written notification of the institution’s decision, an explanation of that decision, if requested by the employee, and guidelines regarding the institution’s grievance procedures or appeal process.

Institutions should follow the same principles of fairness in the hiring, evaluation, promotion and termination of part-time and temporary employees. In academic institutions, part-time and temporary teachers are entitled to the same standards of academic freedom as tenured faculty.


Policies and procedures designed to ensure fairness and equity in evaluation for the initial appointment should also be applied to reappointment, promotion, and tenure decisions. Every eligible employee should receive a copy of written guidelines outlining the procedures for reappointment, promotion, and tenure evaluations and a timetable for such evaluations. These procedures should allow for outside peer review of the candidate’s teaching and scholarship and give the candidate full opportunity to update his or her file. Tenure and promotion evaluations should be thorough, well documented, and consistent with the AAUP’s 1940 “Statement on Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure.” All decisions should be reported promptly in writing, the decision explained, and guidelines for appeal provided should the decision be unfavorable.


Departments and schools of music should recruit graduate students in realistic numbers and quality, bearing in mind the future employment prospects of these students. They should make clear to both prospective and continuing graduate students that completion of the PhD, even at a prestigious university, will not guarantee eventual employment, whether in an academic or a non-academic setting. Departments and schools of music should inform applicants of the number of doctorates awarded at their institution and the record of employment of those graduates in recent years.

Departments and schools of music should provide graduate students with explicit policies and criteria for financial assistance, assistantships, evaluation of progress, and cause for dismissal. They should also ensure the equal and fair treatment of all students and exercise restraint in disclosing information concerning students where such information is not directly relevant to issues of professional competence.

Teaching assistants should be carefully supervised, and students should not be expected to perform unremunerated teaching or research duties.


Whenever possible, institutions should extend courtesies and privileges to independent scholars and visiting scholars from other institutions. In particular, access to libraries and archives is vital to scholars, and institutions should extend the maximum access possible to such individuals.

These guidelines were written over a period of several years by an ad hoc Committee on Ethics (Gretchen A. Wheelock, chair), which was authorized by the Board of Directors in 1993, and revised by Katharine Ellis, Roger Freitas, and Danielle Fosler-Lussier in 2018. The wording of some segments of these Guidelines has been based on or adapted from Ethics Statements of the following humanistic societies: the American Philological Association (now the Society for Classical Studies), the Modern Language Association, the American Sociological Association, the American Historical Association, and the Institution of American Historians.

1. While it is not feasible to define “reasonable time” with precision, it is not unreasonable for a journal editor to take three to six months to respond to the submission of an article or for a book editor to take four to nine months to respond to a submitted book manuscript.

2. In 1993, members of the AMS Committee on the Status of Women helped in preparing this section, which is based in part on A Code of Ethics on Sexual Harassment: Guidelines on the Institution of American Historians (adopted November 15, 1986).

3. At its meeting held 23 June 2019, the AMS Board of Directors voted to endorse the American Historical Association’s Statement on Plagiarism.