Code of Ethics

MISSION STATEMENT (PER BYLAWS)

Introduction

The Global Meteorite Association, Inc. (GMA) is a nonprofit global organization that embraces the entire meteorite community. Its members share an appreciation and enthusiasm for meteorites and the hobby of collecting meteorites. The GMA and its members also believe in expanding the general public’s awareness about and confidence in meteorites, collecting meteorites and the association itself by means of education, outreach and upholding and safeguarding the principles of the organization.

Primary purposes and mission

  1. Promote the enjoyment of collecting meteorites as a hobby.
    1. Encourage camaraderie within the meteorite community and around the world.
    2. Welcome membership of all individuals regardless of race/ethnicity, sex/gender, gender identity or presentation, sexual orientation, religious/political preference, disability, or other similar characteristic or protected class.
  2. Become an authoritative educational resource.
    1. Educate members and the public on various meteorite related topics.
    2. Actively support youth programs focused on science.
    3. Strive to constantly provide fact-based, timely and interesting information and content.
  3. Facilitate the buying, selling, and trading of properly documented, authentic meteorites and meteorite related materials.
    1. Increase confidence in authenticity of meteorites and business transactions by establishing a framework of standards governed by ethical behavior, mutual respect, transparency, and accountability, and guided by established standards of meteorite science.
    2. Establish a robust and fair complaint system that supports the organization’s policy of “trust but verify” and holds the entire organization accountable.
  4. Encourage the participation of “citizen scientists” in meteorite research and related sciences.
    1. Work together as an organization or as individual members with scientists and researchers to answer scientific questions and expand meteoritic knowledge.
  5. Establish a board culture dedicated to effective governance, and that operates and adapts for the sole benefit of its members and the meteorite community at large.
    1. The board shall hold itself to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity always acting in the best interests of the Global Meteorite Association as well as the greater meteorite community.
    2. All members of the Global Meteorite Association should strive to install new directors based on their merit (not popularity), dedication to serve, and commitment to the mission of the organization.

DEFINITIONS

Buyer: The party that pays for a specimen/service or offers item(s) as part of trade(s).

Seller: The party that sells a specimen/service or accepts item(s) as part of trade(s).

Member: individual or group of individuals under a single membership.

Trust but Verify”: A system by which all members, including the Board, trust that everyone is acting in a manner consistent with the Bylaws, Code of Ethics and other founding documents. This trust enables everyone to focus on their responsibilities without micromanaging the activities or behavior of others. However, if during one’s normal activities an issue is identified, then we as a community should verify if such an issue warrants escalation. Trust and verification are two sides of the same coin that makes everyone accountable to each other.

PREAMBLE TO CODE OF ETHICS

The recognition and benefits associated with all membership classes in the Global Meteorite Association, Inc. (GMA) is extended to those persons and organizations who have demonstrated competence, fairness, consistency, and credibility with regard to meteoritics.  As such, membership is a privilege and not a matter of right. Adherence to the GMA’s Code of Ethics (The Code or Code) is a condition of membership. For guidance of its members, this Code has been duly adopted by the Board of Directors and by the authority vested in it by the Bylaws of the association.

GMA members are expected to be professional, ethical and courteous in dealing with each other and with the general public regardless of the forum (GMA website, FB, MetList, etc.). Members must share in the responsibility of furthering mutual trust and respect between members, within the meteorite community, and with the public by conducting their meteorite-related transactions with fairness, transparency and integrity. Members should not conduct themselves in any manner that may or does bring reproach or discredit to the GMA, or impair the prestige of the membership therein.

The GMA recognizes that members are obligated to conduct business in accordance with local, state/provincial, and federal laws. However, unless there is a conflict with the previously referenced laws, members must also adhere to and be governed by the bylaws of the GMA, its Code and any such rules, policies and regulations as may be in force at any given time. To that extent, the Organization prohibits members from engaging in any illegal activities based on the laws of the United States of America, and their own country of residence. The prohibition also extends to the laws of any country related to the procurement, collection and transfer of meteorite related materials.

SECTION 1 – PROVENANCE, AUTHENTICITY, AND ACCURACY

The goal of the GMA is to provide transparency, but it can never provide certainty.

Members shall be responsible, to the best of their knowledge, for the accurate and complete description of all meteorites and meteorite-related materials offered for sale or trade.

  1. Provenance
    1. Members agrees to maintain, to the best of their ability, full and accurate records of the relevant chain of custody of specimens offered for sale.
    2. Should a link in the chain of provenance be unknown or not verifiable, then documentation should include a question mark.
      1. Example: Ex. Collector1 <- Collector2 <- Museum
  2. Authenticity
    1. Members agree to offer, when appropriate, written certificates of authenticity for any items offered for sale or trade. If a member does not have a personal certificate of authenticity, they may download a generic template from the member portal.
      1. The template does not imply or provide any guarantee of authenticity on the part of the Organization.
      2. Template is offered license free and members may change or modify template as they see fit.
      3. The template requires modification and personalization to properly represent the seller and the material being sold or traded. Template is provided to facilitate transparency on the part of the seller.
    2. Members guarantee the authenticity of all objects they offer to the best of their professional knowledge and belief. Members are expected to exercise all reasonable efforts to confirm the identification and provenance of the materials they offer for sale. See also the section titled “Special consideration regarding authenticity of meteorites” below.
  3. Accuracy
    1. The description of any specimen must conform to industry acceptable norms and definitions (provided on www.gmeta.org website) to provide new owners with the most complete and accurate description possible.
      1. The goal is to provide a standard and consistent set of definitions and guidelines to enable members to express and understand the same “language”.
      2. If a meteorite is classified and published in the MetBull, then the approved MetBull name and most recent classification should be used in all documentation, advertisements, specimen cards. Any nicknames like Taza or Black Beauty, should be added after if needed.
        1. Example: NWA 859 (Taza)
        2. Example: NWA 7034 (Black Beauty)
          1. Note that this description cannot be used for paired material. See addendums below.
    2. All known conservation, restoration, repairs, any significant defects and/or variations in the expected quality of the specimen that may impact the value or desirability of a specimen must be clearly noted and made aware to those to whom the material is offered or sold.
      1. Examples: Use of electrolysis, application of lacquer, repaired cracks, more than superficial rust (if not obvious), weathering due to prolonged exposure compared to one collected shortly after the fall.

Special consideration regarding authenticity of meteorites

Special considerations regarding authenticity of meteorites

No organization, including the GMA, can ever guarantee the authenticity of a specimen.

The GMA can and does provide a structure, rules and guidelines that encourages fair, transparent, and ethical practices to maximize a buyer’s confidence in the transaction and in the authenticity of the specimen.

Authenticity is a critical part of collecting meteorites and of ensuring that their value is maintained over time. Traceable authenticity and provenance lowers the risks inherent to the market and collecting. Maintaining proper documentation such as, but not limited to, a specimen’s certificate of authenticity and chain of custody is crucial, because without it, a meteorite can be indistinguishable from another similar meteorite and thus lose significant value.

Misconceptions About Authenticity

A common misconception especially among new collectors is that scientific analysis can be used to determine the authenticity of any meteorite. Though certain meteorites can be singularly identified based on unique features and composition, that is not the case with most meteorites. Since many meteorites originate from the same parent body, it is often impossible to differentiate between two fresh falls with the same classifications even when their fall dates are separated by decades or even centuries. For example, dishonest sellers have in the past sold the LL6 ordinary chondrite Saint-Severin as the similarly classified Ensisheim because they are visually indistinguishable. Though both meteorites are desirable, the selling price per gram of an authentic specimen of Ensisheim is significantly higher than that of St. Severin. A meteoriticist, even with the best analysis, may not be able to distinguish between two meteorites of the same type. As with the case above, they are likely to say that the meteorite is an LL6, but not be able to say whether it is St. Severin or Ensisheim.

Even in the case of a meteorite that may be uniquely identified, most researchers and scientist will refuse to confirm authenticity due to legal restrictions placed on them by their institutions, based on their workload, or any number of other reasons. However, the original classifying scientist may confirm a pairing based on lab results (see Rules Regarding Pairings).

For collectors of micros, the due diligence required to vet a seller is significantly higher as specimens are often too small to place in the context of a larger specimen and thus even more difficult to guarantee their authenticity.

Summary

In summary, the GMA cannot control the behavior of any individual member. Buying specimens from GMA members does offer a higher degree of confidence in the authenticity of specimen, but the GMA itself does not and cannot offer any absolute guarantee of authenticity.

SECTION 2 – TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS ACTIVITIES

A GMA member will fulfill all contracts (either oral or written), make prompt payments and deliveries of items bought and sold, and take immediate steps to correct any errors made in any transaction.

After receiving payment in full, member agrees to ship or deliver items within the time frame communicated to the buyer or stated in the sale’s listing. Ignoring or not responding to a buyer’s request for a ship date for more than 5 days is considered a breach of the Code of Ethics. Any query or complaint (unrelated to shipping agent or carrier delays outside the seller’s control) should be raised with the seller at the earliest possibility and in writing. Should a buyer change their mind after shipping has been initiated, the seller may refuse a refund, charge a restocking fee (not to exceed 15%), and/or refuse to pay for any additional shipping or associated cost related to the return. Shipper should make receiver aware of insurance status and identify the responsible party in the case of loss or damage.

Members agree to offer a full and timely refund (within a maximum of 30 days) on the purchase price if the description is found to be significantly incorrect, misleading or fraudulent. Additional costs (e.g., postage, packing, insurance and other services) may be refunded at the seller’s discretion. Should a buyer suspect that a seller is engaging in willful fraud, the buyer is encouraged to immediately file a complaint against the member. False complaints will be considered a breach of the code of ethics.

The GMA requires that members strive to attain the highest possible standards of quality in all aspects of conservation, restoration, repair and enhancement within the limits of personal competence and education as well as within the limits of the available facilities. Members engaged in these types of activities must also document and/or disclose any treatment, though not the details of the process, to the buyer (e.g., filler added before cutting, electrolysis to stabilize, repair broken slice, lacquer applied to iron meteorite and any other treatments). For increased transparency and the benefit of the customer and future owners of the item, members are encouraged to add such information to a specimen card or appropriate document.

GMA members will conform to the accepted standards of dignified advertising. A GMA member should neither approach nor solicit customers in any other meteorite seller’s shop, convention booth, or place of business, physical or electronic, without the introduction or consent of the seller.

A GMA member will neither buy nor sell meteorite or meteorite-related items of which the ownership is questionable (such as, but not limited to, stolen goods). A GMA member shall cooperate with law enforcement authorities and the GMA Board of Directors in the effort to recover and return stolen materials, and apprehend and prosecute those responsible for the theft, including, but not limited to, providing the names of the persons involved.

A GMA member shall not knowingly violate copyright laws by selling, trading, distributing, or creating unlawfully produced copies of works currently protected by copyright, without the written, oral, or implied consent of the copyright owner.

SECTION 3 – DECORUM AND EXPECTATIONS OF MEMBERS

Members may never, whether publicly or privately, demean or threaten others in any interaction/transaction related to meteorites. A GMA member, both privately and publicly, represents the organization in all meteorite-related matters whether with the general public, fellow members, or anyone in the meteorite community.

Free speech is a core value, and the GMA does not wish to restrict it. However, free speech does not imply freedom from its consequences. Should a complaint be submitted to the Board regarding such an issue, then the Board will evaluate the complaint based on its impact and severity, and could lead to suspension or dismissal.

The GMA provides a robust and fair complaint system, as such, no member may publicly participate in activities that could bring another member’s reputation into disrepute. However, respectful discourse with the seller regarding authenticity of specimens, pairing, inaccurate descriptions and other related issues is encouraged as part of “trust but verify.”

Members should be respectful of how other members conduct their business. Some sellers may not wish to publicly disclose the provenance, source or selling price for various legitimate reasons. In such cases, prospective buyers or interested parties should simply contact the seller privately. The actual buyer and seller can then determine what information is desired and provided, respectively.

The GMA is not a policing organization and relies on the concept of “trust but verify” to maintain the integrity of its members and the organization. This expectation is not extended to items for sale by non-members such as on eBay. Should any member identify a discrepancy or error in an item for sale from another member, the member should privately contact the seller to first get information from the seller and then discuss their concerns. Unintentional mistakes are rare but they do happen, and the member should be given the chance to rectify the situation. Should a member not feel comfortable contacting a seller directly, they are encouraged to file a confidential complaint with the GMA expressing their concerns.

SECTION 4 – ABUSE OF MEMBERSHIP CLASSES

Misrepresentation of business interests and signing up for multiple individual memberships will be considered a violation of the Code and may result in the expulsion of all members associated with said business.

Misrepresentation of financial need for the sake of obtaining a free individual membership will be considered a violation of the Code and may result in the expulsion of that member.

If a member with a Collector membership (as defined in Bylaws ARTICLE 9 – MEMBERSHIP) is unsure about their activities or if their activities may cross into the threshold of requiring a Business membership, the member is encouraged to contact the Chair of the Membership Committee for guidance. Doing so is considered an act in good faith and will suffer no consequences unless gross misconduct is revealed.

SECTION 5 – LEGALITY of METEORITE OWNERSHIP or TRANSFER ACROSS BORDERS

Per the Bylaws:

The GMA is not a law enforcement organization and claims no expertise in matters of law including but not limited to laws of ownership, or laws pertaining to the transfer of specimens across state/provincial or international borders. As such, the GMA cannot and will not make any determination as to the legality of export or import of a specimen. 

Should complaints be filed against a member related to such types of legal matters, the GMA will respond by recusing itself from providing any action or guidance until the matter has been decided between the parties by either 3rd party mediation or a court of law. The GMA throughout these processes will remain neutral and uninvolved. In the case of criminal activity and as instructed by a US court of law, the board will cooperate with law enforcement organizations and provide all requested information. Regardless of the GMA’s involvement, the organization, its directors and Chair of the Board shall be held harmless in perpetuity.

SECTION 6 – MEDIATION of COMPLAINTS

The complaint system is an integral part of the organization’s ability to “trust but verify” and hold members accountable for their actions. However, the role of the Board is not to punish members but to seek the amicable and fair resolution of complaints in a manner that, if possible, maintains goodwill, creates a learning opportunity, and enhances the integrity of the organization.

The Board is duty-bound to keep secret the details of any complaint including names of parties involved, internal Board discussions and outcome. Complaints will first be reviewed by Officers of the Board and, should escalation be required, then include the entire Board that will decide on a course of action. Any disciplinary action must be approved by a simple majority vote of the Board.

Any party, regardless of status or membership in the GMA, directly involved in a business transaction (either as buyer or seller as defined above), may file a complaint regarding a GMA member. However, the Board encourages the parties to resolve any issues on their own before escalating the dispute to the Board. In the event of willful or suspected fraud, a formal complaint should be filed immediately.

A breach of ethics and/or decorum by any member reflects, directly or indirectly, upon all other members. Such a breach shall be considered conduct prejudicial to the welfare of the GMA and cause for disciplinary action by the Board of Directors.

Membership may be maintained unless the Board of Directors, by formal process, determines that the conduct of a member has been such that, in the best interest of the GMA, the member’s status in the organization should undergo review for disciplinary action. Disciplinary action may include a warning, suspension, or termination of membership. In the event of termination of membership, the expelled member’s name will be removed from the official member’s list and, as a matter of board policy, their name will not be made public.  The Board’s decisions in these matters are final.  Though the Board is not obligated to offer a refund, a terminated member may request a refund of their current year’s membership fee.

SECTION 7 – AUTHORITY

Members have no authority to act or speak on the behalf of the GMA Board unless previously approved to do so by the Board.

ADDENDUMS

Rules Regarding Pairings

Finds from Dense Collection Area (DCA) Strewn Fields

When a meteorite is found in a Dense Collection Area (DCA) and then classified, oftentimes some or much more of the same material is found. In some cases, this new material goes through its own classification process to become “officially paired”, but more often it is sold by brokers to dealers and collectors who then decide which path they will take. 

Note that the guidelines below regarding unofficial pairings do not adhere to the Meteoritical Society guidelines required for scientific research and publications. As the Meteoritical Society and GMA have differing goals and missions, the guidelines below are meant to provide sufficient clarity for a buyer to make an educated purchasing decision. Furthermore, the definitions below are guidelines and unlikely to cover all circumstances.

Members may never use someone else’s dense collection area (DCA) name published in the MetBull without first either getting written permission from published mass holder(s), or adding a modifier to the description making it clear that this specimen is an unofficial pairing. Meteorites from Dense Collection Areas are easily identified as their name will include a general name for the area followed by a number. DCA meteorites require additional scrutiny as exact recovery locations are rarely provided or unavailable to the person classifying the meteorite.

Pairings of DCA (e.g., NWA, DHO, Stewart Valley) meteorites include:

  1. Unofficial: “Visually Paired”, “Source Paired” or “Likely Paired”
    1. Sellers must state that the specimen is “Visually Paired” or “Source Paired” in the title of a listing or offer to sell/trade, and in any description related to classification. This information must be easily accessible to prospective buyers for them to make an educated purchasing decision.
    2. Visually Paired definition: A meteorite that can be paired to another DCA meteorite due to some unique feature(s) readily distinguished by the naked eye.
    3. Source Paired definition: A meteorite that can be paired to another DCA meteorite based on the source of their purchase:
      1. The same dealer or broker who sold the unclassified stone to the original person who had the meteorite classified.
      1. The meteorite was purchased from a different dealer or broker, but the material came from the same strewn field.
    4. Likely Paired definition: A meteorite that, based on the judgment of the seller, can be paired to another DCA meteorite. Likely paired meteorites often combine source and visually paired characteristics.
    5. In all these cases, buyers are encouraged to ask seller as much information as possible from the seller to make an educated decision.
  2. Unofficial: “Lab Paired” or “Scientifically Paired”
    1. Either term is acceptable and provides an extra level of confidence to a prospective buyer. The definition of such a term means that a specimen has been provided to a recognized meteoritical scientist or institution and that they have performed sufficient analysis to confirm that the specimen in question is paired. In such a case, the scientist or institution should be disclosed to the seller prior to the finalizing the sale. Sellers are encouraged to have the specimen analyzed by the same institution or scientist that performed the original classification.
    2. Some sellers may choose to use an XRF machine to determine the composition of a meteorite. Assuming the operator is qualified to use the machine, an XRF machine can provide excellent insights into the general category the meteorite belongs to. In other words, an XRF can help determine if a meteorite is an HED or lunar meteorite versus a primitive achondrite. However, an XRF machine is not a proper substitute for a complete classification by a recognized meteoritic institution. XRF results should be treated as another piece of valuable information to help parties make better educated decisions.
  3. Officially Paired
    1.  Describes any DCA meteorite that has gone through the entire classification process including deposit of required type specimen, been assigned its own DCA number, may list names of previously approved paired meteorites in the description, been approved by the NomCom, and been officially published in the MetBull.

Named Falls and Named Finds from Non-DCA Strew Fields

Per the Meteoritical Society, meteorites recovered from a fall or collected from a non-DCA strewn field with known coordinates/location may be self-paired by the finder. There is no concept of “pairings” for meteorites recovered from recognized strewn fields. For example, meteorites recovered today from the Chelyabinsk strewn field are also considered Chelyabinsk meteorites even if their mass is not included in the total known weight listed in the Meteoritical Bulletin. 

Rules Regarding Status of Classification

When a meteorite is in process of being classified, seller must disclose that the classification is not final and must use the word “possible” in front of classification. This requirement also applies if selling an unclassified meteorite.

Example: Classification in process, possible CI1
Example: Unclassified meteorite, possible HED

Due to previous policies no longer in effect, the Meteorite Bulletin has published many meteorites that are listed as “provisional”. Provisional meteorites are those that never fully completed classification for various reasons including for example a missing type deposit.  When a meteorite is listed in the MetBull as “provisional”, the seller must disclose its status and must use the word “provisional” in a prominent place in any sales listing or offer. The preferred location is after the meteorite name in the first instance of the name being used.

Example: Meteorite NWA #### (Provisional)

AMENDMENTS AND REVISIONS

This document may be amended by a simple majority of all directors then in office, and only in the period between the seating of new officers and the second to last Sunday in September (per the BoD Elections document). Such action is authorized only at a duly called and held meeting of the Board of Directors setting forth the proposed bylaw revisions with explanations and consequences the changes may have. All directors must attest that they understand the changes and the impact of those changes prior to their vote.

Any changes to this document must be noted, explained and made available to the general membership within seven (7) days of the passing vote.

This document was last modified on Jan. 10, 2021.