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Safety in Field and Ocean Sciences: Best Practices for Preventing and Responding to Harassment in Remote Research Settings
  • Anne Kelly,
  • Kristen Yarincik,
  • Stephanie Murphy
Anne Kelly
The Nature Conservancy

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Kristen Yarincik
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
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Stephanie Murphy
Duke University
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Sexual harassment in STEM continues to be a pervasive barrier to women’s full participation in the sciences. Many studies conclude that workplace culture and lack of clear policies and practices exacerbate the risks of sexual harassment. Remote research environments, such as field stations and ocean platforms, bring additional risk to researchers. Participants already face acute safety concerns related to the remoteness of the field station or oceanographic vessels, fewer and less clear policies and enforcement regulations are in place, and multiple institutions bear responsibility, leading to a challenging environment for preventing and handling incidents. This workshop explored the factors that permit sexual harassment in remote research, and aimed to develop practices to prevent and respond to harassment in the field. The California State University Desert Studies Center and the Center for Ocean Leadership convened workshop in March, 2021 to address sexual harassment in field science. Over three days, field and ocean science leadership and practitioners came together with leadership from professional societies and academia, and experts in sociology, policy, and social justice. The goals were to: 1) open a dialogue between sexual harassment experts and the field research community to develop best practices and recommendations; 2) build coordination and consistency in policy setting and enforcement across field stations and oceanographic platforms; 3) develop processes to monitor the reporting of sexual harassment instances occurring at remote field locations; and 4) promote a safe culture for scientists conducting research at remote field stations and on oceanographic vessels. The workshop compiled and developed best practices and recommendations in four key areas: 1) culture change, 2) policy, 3) accountability, and 4) reporting. These recommendations were targeted at all facets of field and ocean sciences, from academic and research institutions, professional societies, and funding agencies, to departments and field research crews. Here we will give an overview of the workshop findings, with particular focus on the recommendations for research leadership.