A student recently dropped by to tell me about an exciting opportunity. She was going to spend a few weeks doing research in a gorgeous location, camping with a field crew led by the professor who taught her Intro course last semester.
I asked her how much the job paid, and she said it was a volunteer gig, but the opportunity of this short trip would would be worth it on its own. And she would be getting academic credit.
I had more questions.
Have you done any field research with this professor so far? No.
Do you know everybody else who is going? One other person, a bit.
Is this a field trip that happens every year? Yes.
Do you know what safety precautions are being taken since you’re in the boonies? Not yet.
Do you know if any members of the previous field crew have been women? They probably were, but I don’t know that as a fact.
Do you think you could have the opportunity to talk to students who have been on this field expedition in the past? I guess I could, but I’d feel really weird asking the professor for this information.
Are you sure that you will be safe on this trip? I don’t see why I wouldn’t be. The professor seems nice and I am sure he picks good people to go with him.
Are you aware that most women are sexually harassed while conducing field research by members of their own research team? Really, that can’t be true.
[I tell her about Clancy et al. 2014.] This might surprise you, but did you know that one out of five women are sexually assaulted while conducting field research, usually from members of their own team? No, I didn’t realize that.
Based on what you’ve told me, how can you convince me that you’ll be safe on this trip? I’m not sure what to say.
As a start, could you get contact information for women that have been on this field trip in the past and ask them about their experiences and whether they were safe? Yes, I can do that.
This does represent a great opportunity, but even more important is your safety. I’ll make sure I can find you a safe way to get an amazing field experience if this one doesn’t work out to be safe enough. Can you let me know what you find out before you make more plans? Sure, I can do that.
I said before that I wanted to do more to protect scientists in my midst. Having this conversation, and sharing this with you, is just a little part of that.