Research in the physical sciences may involve field work that takes graduate students and postdocs to remote locations around the globe to take advantage of unique opportunities. Field work often represents a chance for students to do research that they would be unable to complete in a lab setting. Researcher safety is of the utmost importance, and this guide provides an overview of resources for students and postdoctoral researchers if they experience harassment or assault while performing remote field work.
Unfortunately, harassment and assault are recognized problems in many fieldwork settings. In 2022, the NSF published a report detailing incidents of sexual harassment and assault in the NSF Polar Programs at McMurdo and the South Pole Stations in Antarctica. While focused on Antarctica, the report illustrates the potential for unacceptable behavior that could occur in a wide variety of remote field locations that share the characteristics of Antarctic field work: geographical isolation, limited communication, and tight-knit groups with hierarchical power dynamics.
Most importantly, wherever you go in pursuit of your research, you remain a valued member of the University of Chicago Physical Sciences Division community. If you experience any form of harassment or other inappropriate behavior while conducting remote field work, you should reach out directly to the PSD Dean of Students (Bahareh Lampert, firstname.lastname@example.org) or any of the resources included in the resources section below.
Understanding the Remote Field Work Context
Students and postdocs regularly conduct remote field work in the Physical Sciences Division. For example, the Departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Geophysical Sciences, and Physics conduct research at remote sites like those in Antarctica, Greenland, the mountains of Chile, and remote geological sites around the globe.
There are features of remote field work that can present challenges for anyone experiencing discrimination, harassment, or assault: the work is often geographically isolated with limited access to transportation; communication with those outside the field work location may be delayed, and power imbalances exist. These factors have the potential to create an environment where harassment and assault can occur.
Discrimination, harassment, or assault in any setting is unacceptable and unlawful. All University of Chicago community members are expected to abide by the University’s policies on discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct while performing remote field work. Additionally, if you experience discrimination, harassment, or assault in the field, you are highly encouraged to report this behavior and seek out resources.
Preparing for Remote Field Work
- Educate yourself on your destination prior to departing. You should study any documentation or literature that provides details about the environment where you will be performing field research. Your research group or scientific organizations may have specific information about field work in that location. You should also talk with others (students, post-docs, faculty) who have visited the same site to learn about their experiences.
- Gather detailed information about University resources prior to departing. The Resources section below provides information about Divisional and University-wide resources available to all students and postdocs (even students who are away from campus). In addition to those resources, you should make sure you have quick access to contact information for:
- Your PI or advisor
- Your scientific collaboration leadership or ombudsperson(s)
- Your departmental ombudsperson(s) (if applicable)
- Your department chair
- Dean of Students: Bahareh Lampert (email@example.com or 773-702-8790)
- Your departmental ombudsperson(s)
- Your PI/advisor
- Your department chair
- Sexual Assault Dean-on-Call: Call 773-702-8181 and request the Sexual Assault Dean-on-Call (available 24/7)
- Dean-on-Call: Call 773-702-8181 and request the Dean-on-Call (available 24/7)
- Office for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Support:
- Report harassment, discrimination, or sexual misconduct online or
- Email Renae DeSautel at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Confidential resources
- Therapist-on-call: Call 773-702-3625 (available 24/7)