Sexual Harassment, an Unacceptable Hazard of Field Work

Figure 1. Proportion of survey respondents, by gender, who indicated that inappropriate or sexual comments occurred never, rarely, regularly, or frequently at their most recent or most notable field site (N). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102172.g001
Figure 1. Proportion of survey respondents, by gender, who indicated that inappropriate or sexual comments occurred never, rarely, regularly, or frequently at their most recent or most notable field site (N).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102172.g001

Important conversations are best addressed with good data. Science has a sexism problem and not all of it is of the passive, unconscious variety. As Kathryn Clancy, Robin Nelson, Julienne Rutherford, and Katie Hinde show in a new paper in PLoS One (“Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault”), sexual harassment and assault is disturbingly common at scientific field sites. They find that when women are the victims it is most likely that the perpetrator is a superior, which allows abuse of the hierarchical power dynamic. They also find that codes of conduct are absent or unknown, that clear reporting systems are often unknown, and that the existing reporting systems often fail to address the issues satisfactorily.

ABSTRACT
Little is known about the climate of the scientific fieldwork setting as it relates to gendered experiences, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. We conducted an internet-based survey of field scientists (N = 666) to characterize these experiences. Codes of conduct and sexual harassment policies were not regularly encountered by respondents, while harassment and assault were commonly experienced by respondents during trainee career stages. Women trainees were the primary targets; their perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team. Male trainees were more often targeted by their peers at the research site. Few respondents were aware of mechanisms to report incidents; most who did report were unsatisfied with the outcome. These findings suggest that policies emphasizing safety, inclusivity, and collegiality have the potential to improve field experiences of a diversity of researchers, especially during early career stages. These include better awareness of mechanisms for direct and oblique reporting of harassment and assault and, the implementation of productive response mechanisms when such behaviors are reported. Principal investigators are particularly well positioned to influence workplace culture at their field sites.

Marie-Claire’s belly button has passed peer review

Marie-Claire’s belly button is on the x-axis

You have probably heard about the new paper in PLoS ONE describing the diversity of microbiological species in the human belly button. Understanding within species variation is critical before we can get a real handle on between species variation in belly button microbial diversity. What you may not know is that our own Marie-Claire Shanahan provided one of the belly buttons used for this study. Marie-Claire is, as it says in the acknowledgements, “curious about the life on their own bodies and in what science can tell them about themselves.”

In fact, Marie-Claire’s belly button is the poster child for this research, at least in Canada. She was featured in a CBC video describing the work, which can be seen here (may only be visible in Canada).

A theoretical basis for ornithopter research

There is a lot of seductive technology in the Dune novels. While you might like the stillsuit, I have found that my imagination was most captured by the ornithopters (perhaps the idea of recycling my urine, feces, and sweat into drinking water doesn’t capture my imagination).

It’s pretty obvious to me that the engineers in the Dune universe would not discuss the design of the ubiquitous ornithopters using metrics designed for fixed wing aircraft like we, apparently, do now. Phillip Burgers and David Alexander have taken a stab at creating a new measure of lift1 that is readily applicable to fixed wing aircraft, lift generating rotating cylinders, and things with flapping wings (i.e., ornithopters and bats): Continue reading “A theoretical basis for ornithopter research”