As a society of aquatic scientists, ASLO wishes to foster an inclusive community in which success is determined only by one’s scientific curiosity and determination (see the ASLO Code of Professional Conduct). We recognize that field research, a fundamental component of our science, presents unique challenges in cases of sexual misconduct, including the remoteness of many field sites and the potential for the challenging conditions and often informal atmosphere of field work to foster unprofessional behavior. For this reason, ASLO is sponsoring a workshop at the 2017 Aquatic Sciences Meeting to discuss this challenge and engage ASLO members in activities that empower individuals to respond to inappropriate behavior. To further support our members in addressing sexual misconduct, we have assembled resources that can help inform our community about the nature and scope of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior in the scientific profession and equip scientists to respond to incidents of misconduct. We hope the resources below will help ASLO members better understand the role each of us plays in fighting bias, discrimination, harassment, and assault, and take steps in their own life and among their colleagues to foster a diverse, inclusive aquatic science community.
We highlight two key resources:
- A 2014 study by Clancy et al. showing the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault during field research: the authors found that 64% of 666 field researchers surveyed experienced sexual harassment during field work, and 22% experienced sexual assault. The survey found that the perpetrators are most often senior male members of the research team. See also analyses of this study in Scientific American and Insider Higher Education.
- A template of policies and enforcement mechanisms from the Toolik Lake Field Station designed to minimize the incidence of sexual misconduct in the field.
The following collection of resources is focused primarily on gender-based bias and harassment, as this topic has generated significant interest in recent years. Discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability status, and other characteristics also exist within the scientific community, present unique challenges, and warrant greater attention. If you wish to share similar resources on these topics, please contact us.
What is the problem?
The articles and reports below describe various instances of sexual misconduct during field-based research, and actions being taken to address the problem.
- In 2016, US National Parks Service employees blew the whistle on years of harassing and bullying behavior by fellow employees during field work.
- Beth Orcutt and Ivona Cetinić summarized the history and ongoing challenges to women in oceanography.
- Walter Robinson shared his ideas about preventing and addressing harassment and assault in the field for the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.
- A 2016 paper in the Journal of Geoscience Education outlines the specific challenges facing geoscience researchers and educators and calls for concerted research and action to address this issue in the geosciences, especially in field research.
- Julia O’Hern recounted instances of sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault in oceanography, many of which occurred during field work.
- The anonymous blog Tenure, She Wrote features accounts of anxiety over potential sexual misconduct during field research, balancing mentor/friend relationships in the field, and mentoring female field scientists.
- In 2015, AGU published the book Women in the Geosciences, summarizing the lessons learned from the NSF ADVANCE program, which was aimed at increasing the number of women in the STEM professoriate. Read an interview with the author in Eos.
- In 2016, NSF awarded the National Academies a 2-year, $750,000-grant to study the prevalence and impacts of sexual harassment in STEM fields.
How can we promote zero-tolerance for discrimination and harassment?
In addition to the Toolik Field Station guide highlighted above, these resources can serve as inspiration and templates for implementing stronger policies at field stations, departments, or other institutions.
- Learn about and practice Bystander Intervention from Jane Stapleton’s presentation at the 2017 Aquatic Sciences Meeting based on the Prevention Innovations Research Center’s Bringing in the Bystander® program. Stapleton also compiled a list of relevant resources for scientists.
- The National Association of Geoscience Teachers provides a template code of conduct for field work.
- The AGU convened a workshop in 2016 with other scientific societies to discuss how to address sexual harassment in the sciences. They launched a resources website and plan to release “guiding principles” soon.
- The You Are Welcome Here initiative at WHOI promotes an inclusive environment for LGBT scientists.
What can individual scientists do?
Not all of us will be victims or perpetrators of sexual misconduct. But we all have a role to play in making these incidents less likely to occur by refusing to tolerate discriminatory and inappropriate behavior. Check out these videos to learn more about why the “active bystander” approach is valuable and how to become an active bystander.
What groups are out there for women and underrepresented groups in aquatic science?
- Earth Science Women’s Network: a non-profit organization dedicated to career development, peer mentoring and community building for women by women in the geosciences.
- Society for Women in Marine Science: a community of marine researchers who acknowledge and address the difficulties facing women and minorities in the marine sciences.
- Geoscience Alliance: a national alliance of individuals committed to broadening participation of Native Americans in the geosciences.
- International Association for Geoscience Diversity: a non-profit organization charged with promoting inclusive instructional practices and research opportunities for underrepresented students with disabilities while raising awareness for improving access and engagement in the geoscience disciplines for students and geoscience practitioners with disabilities.
- GayGU: a GLBTQ social group that revolves around, but has no official ties to, the American Geophysical Union and AGU’s annual Fall Meeting in San Francisco.