- The perils of fieldwork
The Washington Post and other mainstream media reported on a survey about sexual harassment and assault by colleagues during fieldwork. The study includes 142 men and 516 women in anthropology (including archaeology), geology, and other scientific disciplines. Results show that younger women are particularly at risk of sexual harassment and sexual assault during fieldwork.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, claims to be the first to investigate experiences of scientists at field sites. Researchers conducted an online survey with respondents recruited through social media, e-mail and links on Web sites of major anthropological organizations as well as other scientific disciplines that require fieldwork. The study’s lead author is Kate Clancy, professor of biological anthropology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
The Washington Post quotes Clancy: “Our main findings – that women trainees were disproportionately targeted for abuse and felt they had few avenues to report or resolve these problems – suggest that at least some field sites are not safe, nor inclusive…We worry that this is at least one mechanism driving women from science.”
[Blogger’s note: Nearly a quarter of a century ago, in 1990, Nancy Howell published a landmark study, "Surviving Fieldwork: A Report of the Advisory Panel on Health and Safety in Fieldwork", supported by the American Anthropological Association. I don’t have my copy at hand -- it’s at my university office, so I cannot check the accuracy of the following statement, but I think I am right in saying that her study did not include sexual harassment and assault by colleagues. Perhaps it is time to reassess the wider range of dangers in the field and how to prevent them.]
The Pacific Standard Magazine carried a response by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, to an article about her work exposing human organ trafficking. An excerpt:
“In his profile of me (“The Organ Detective,” July/August), Ethan Watters quotes sources indicating that I have a deep animus toward the medical establishment. I have always worked closely with surgeons, pathologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and transplant professionals. I have co-authored numerous articles with physicians and transplant surgeons. In 2007, I was offered a McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair and Professorship at the University of Minnesota, with a primary appointment in the Department of Surgery. I declined, regretfully, but I believe the offer reflected that school’s faith in my ability to play a positive role in the training of medical students (including surgeons) in medical anthropological concepts and methods bearing on ethical clinical practice.” (more…)