AEA Ombuds Team Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The following information is designed to inform you about the American Economic Association Ombuds Team.
The Ombuds Team is an independent, impartial, confidential, and informal third-party resource to help AEA Members obtain information about AEA policies and procedures, develop options for surfacing issues, assist in addressing or resolving conflicts or concerns, and assist in bringing systemic issues to the attention of AEA leadership.
2. How will the Ombuds Resource offered through MWI work?
MWI will closely align the Ombuds Resource with the International Ombuds Association (IOA)’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, which are based on the principles of independence, informality, impartiality, informality, and confidentiality. These are the principles that undergird successful organizational ombuds programs. The Ombuds function is based on the new AEA Ombuds Charter, which sets forth the principles, terms, and conditions of the Ombuds program. The Ombuds program is structured in order to enable AEA Members to have the utmost confidence in consulting with the Ombuds Team, knowing that the Ombuds are truly an independent, informal, impartial, and confidential resource. The Ombuds Team is available to provide confidential help to AEA Members who have questions about AEA policies and procedures or obligations under the Code of Professional Conduct. The Ombuds Team can also help Members develop and evaluate options for resolving conflict or otherwise surfacing issues. The Ombuds Team members will not be involved in receiving or handling complaints filed under the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation or the AEA Code of Professional Conduct. The Ombuds Team, as an informal resource, will not conduct fact-finding investigations. As an informal resource, the Ombuds will not keep records of Complaints or prior reports.
3. Who can reach out to the Ombuds Team? How and when can I expect to hear back?
All AEA Members with a concern related to the AEA or the economics profession are welcome to contact a member of the Ombuds Team. A member of the Ombuds Team will reply within one business day.
4. Why are multiple people on the Ombuds Team?
While all of the Ombuds Team members are very experienced Ombuds and can provide similar services, experience has shown that people often feel more comfortable speaking confidentially with someone who has experience with similar problems or organizations or who might share various characteristics, such as age, race or ethnic background, and gender. Having a multiple-member ombuds team leverages the power of diversity and provides options to members.
Yes. It was important for us to ensure the Ombuds Team could serve the diverse needs of our members based on professional and personal backgrounds and experience. We have three Ombuds Team members dedicated to serving the AEA members whose bios can be found here. You can select a team member to speak with based on your preferences.
6. What does the Ombuds Team do?
The Ombuds Team advocates for a fair process and helps AEA Members develop options for surfacing or resolving interpersonal challenges equitably, provide information about AEA policies and procedures, and impartial and informal assistance on how to file a complaint or report an issue to AEA leadership. In some cases, at the request of Members, this may include assistance with informal conflict resolution. The Ombuds Team further provides information sessions, education, and training to AEA Members around topics that relate to the Ombuds resource, as well as topics that further the AEA’s mission.
The Ombuds Team does not advocate for a particular Member of the association or the AEA itself, make binding decisions or mandate policies, participate in complaint investigations or other formal resolution processes, nor do they serve as a channel for reporting violations of the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation or the AEA’s Code of Professional Conduct. Because the Ombuds Team has no authority to make or change policy or decisions, discussing a matter with a member of the Ombuds Team does not give the AEA notice of any circumstance or a claim. If an AEA Member wants to file a complaint with AEA, Members should use the Complaint Procedures adopted by AEA leadership so that corrective action can be taken if appropriate.
Both AEA leadership and the Ombuds Team can help members think through various issues. The key distinction is that the Ombuds Team has no authority to act as a formal channel for reporting violations of the Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation or AEA’s Code of Conduct. To make a formal complaint, members should follow the procedures for filing a Complaint on the AEA website. The Ombuds Team, however, offers AEA Members an opportunity to discuss concerns with a resource confidentially before making any decisions on how to proceed and to assist in confidentially evaluating options that may help surface an issue or resolve the issue informally.
9. What are the examples of concerns for which the Ombuds Team might be able to offer support?
Association Members may find it helpful to engage an Ombuds for information and expert, confidential advice, such as when they:
- Have questions about the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation
- Have questions about AEA Procedures for investigating or handling Complaints
- Have questions about the AEA Code of Professional Conduct
- Have questions about the Reporting Lockbox (live in December 2023)
- Want to have a confidential discussion about an issue BEFORE they decide how to proceed
- Experience an interpersonal challenge with another economist and need assistance figuring out how to address the challenge
- Have a compliance, ethical, legal, or policy concern related to the association and want guidance on options for reporting it to the AEA
- Desire to discuss a concern informally and confidentially, while still retaining control of the process, foster a better understanding of issues, and flexibility in crafting resolutions
Yes. Although the Ombuds Team will need to confirm a visitor’s eligibility as an AEA Member, they can proceed with communications on an anonymous basis. Because they are a confidential resource, the Ombuds Team does not share identifying information about individuals who contact them. In situations in which an Ombuds believes that talking with other individuals may be of help, and there is not a risk of harm to self or other, the visitor will be asked for permission before any disclosures are made and disclosure only to the extent permitted by the member.
No. The Ombuds Team is strictly a support resource and is not authorized to serve as a formal reporting channel. The Ombuds Team can answer questions about filing a Complaint and Procedures for investigating and resolving Complaints based on the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation or the AEA Code of Professional Conduct. They can also answer questions about the Reporting Lockbox resource (live in December 2023) and help visitors in a neutral and unbiased way develop and evaluate their options for taking any action.
A member of the Ombuds Team will:
- Provide you with enough time and space to share your concerns in private
- Listen carefully to your concerns
- Help you develop a list of options to address or for resolving your concern
- Provide answers to questions you have regarding a policy or procedure
- Work with you to develop a strategy for resolution
Because they are a confidential resource, the Ombuds Team does not keep identifying information from individual cases. Any recordkeeping or note-taking related to a specific case will only be used to help informally manage or resolve the visitor’s concerns and will be destroyed after the case is closed and/or follow-up is complete. Since the Ombuds Team is not involved in any aspect of the Complaint procedures pursuant to the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation, or the Code of Conduct, they also do not serve as a record-keeper for prior Complaints. If an AEA Member wants to make a record of a situation by using the Reporting Lockbox (live in December 2023) without filing a Complaint, the Ombuds Team can explain how that resource works.
14. What authority does the Ombuds Team have?
The Ombuds Team may contact senior leadership at the AEA about thematic challenges or trends they perceive are facing the association’s Members or to make recommendations for a change in policy or practice when appropriate. The Ombuds Team does not have the authority to mandate anyone do anything they choose not to do.
15. Are there any instances in which the Ombuds Team will not be able to maintain confidentiality?
There are very limited exceptions to confidentiality in the Standards of Practice of the International Ombuds Association, to which the Ombuds Team adhere. For example, in the rare event that a member of the Ombuds Team determines that an imminent threat of serious harm exists, an Ombuds may disclose this information. This determination will be made at the sole discretion of the Ombuds Team member. In situations in which a member of the Ombuds Team believes that talking with other individuals may help, and there is not a risk of harm to self or other, the visitor will be asked for permission before any disclosures are made.
The Ombuds Team keeps aggregate statistics and periodically provides updates to senior leadership. The Ombuds Team will review data with an eye toward highlighting emerging issues, identifying trends, highlighting vulnerable groups, and suggesting areas of improvement.
By contacting a member of the Ombuds Team, AEA Members might gain insight into a complicated situation, a clearer perspective on an issue or concern, enhanced ability to effectively deal with a problem, identification and clarification of options, help in developing an effective communication plan to resolve interpersonal issues and resolution of an ongoing problem that is impacting your ability to do your job. The Ombuds Team can answer questions about filing a Complaint under the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation or the AEA Code of Professional Conduct and help develop and evaluate options for resolving or surfacing issues.
The Ombuds Teams’ effectiveness and credibility are based on a commitment to being fair and supportive of each visitor who contacts them. The Ombuds Team is not part of the AEA and are independent subcontractors to the association, which allows the Ombuds Team to be neutral. They also do not engage in any fact-finding or other aspects of the investigatory process concerning Complaints filed pursuant to the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation or the AEA Code of Professional Conduct. The Ombuds Team’s job is to help association Members make informed decisions for themselves on what to do with the assistance and support of the Ombuds Team in a confidential and private setting.
No. The Ombuds Team cannot serve as a witness and do not participate in any formal grievance process. The Ombuds Team will not testify in formal judicial or administrative hearings.
The goal of the Ombuds Team is to proactively seek to educate and inform AEA Members about conflict management options to address and resolve concerns. In addition, the Ombuds Team offers a confidential, independent, and informal resource for the AEA Members. The AEA Ombuds Team also serves as a change agent by identifying patterns and causes of conflict at the association and bringing those issues to the attention of senior leadership.
No. Discussions with the Ombuds Team are off-the-record and do not constitute formal notice of a complaint to the AEA. You can still contact a member of the Ombuds Team to discuss the problem to address, with the goal of resolving the matter or getting answers to any questions you have before filing a Complaint. All formal Complaints should be reported to AEA leadership using the procedures available on the AEA website .
It is a secure reporting channel separate from the Ombuds Resource whereby an AEA Member can confidentially report conduct or circumstances of potential violations of the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation (“Policy”) or the AEA Code of Professional Conduct by another AEA Member (a “person of concern”). This would be done with the express understanding that any such report will be kept confidential under the terms of the Reporting Lockbox resource agreement (live in December 2023) and released only when and if subsequent report is received involving the same person of concern. This may be a desirable resource for anyone who is not ready or willing to file a Complaint under the Policy but who wants to create a record for the future of a situation in the event that another report to the Reporting Lockbox (live in December 2023) is subsequently received involving conduct by the same person of concern, at which time the identity of each reporter would be disclosed to other reporters, with their express permission, so they could determine whether they wanted to file a formal complaint with the AEA. Since there are issues involving the delay in reporting that may affect the ability to adequately investigate reports, people considering using this resource may, as with the Complaint process, wish to consult with a member of the Ombuds Team for further information and options. For more information about the Reporting Lockbox, please click here (this page will be live in December 2023).
Please contact either member of the Ombuds Team to get your questions answered. Their contact information can be found at