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What Goes Into a Field Safety Plan? 

April 25, 2023 @ 3:00 PM ET 

 Also posted below

  1. National Science Foundation policy on Safe and Inclusive Working Environments for Off-Campus or Off-Site Research 
  2. Resources on Field Safety

Description of Water Cooler Chat

The National Science Foundation has announced that new or renewal proposals to NSF submitted January 30, 2023 or later that are funded will require that PIs must create a plan for a safe and inclusive work environment for off-campus research activities. Regardless of whether you are funded by NSF, what does it look like? Does your institution have guidelines relevant to ecological fieldwork to ensure positive experiences for all taking into account gender, race/ethnicities, or disabilities? How can you work with your institutions to ensure that participants know where to report incidents of unacceptable conduct? And how should you or your team handle such incidents? Join us for this important Water Cooler Chat jointly organized by ESA’s Education Committee and Diversity Committee to learn how our panelists have responded. Bring your favorite beverage to share ideas and tips on crafting your plan and working with your institutions.

Tom Langen, Clarkson University; Chair, ESA Education Committee
Carmen Cid, Eastern Connecticut State University; Chair, Diversity Committee

Gillian Bowser, Colorado State University
Paul Foster, Bijagual Ecological Reserve, Costa Rica
Matt McCary, Rice University
Amy Jacobs, NEON
Zakiya Leggett, North Carolina State University
Natasha Woods, Moravian College

National Science Foundation policy on Safe and Inclusive Working Environments for Off-Campus or Off-Site Research 

(PAPPG (NSF 23-1) dated January 30, 2023;,-205,761 )

 It is NSF policy (see Chapter XI.A.1.g.) to foster safe and harassment-free environments wherever science is conducted. NSF’s policy recognizes that a community effort is essential to eliminate sexual and other forms of harassment in science and to build inclusive scientific climates where people can learn, grow, and thrive. Accordingly, for each proposal that proposes to conduct research off-campus or off site, the AOR must complete a certification that the organization has a plan in place for that proposal that describes how the following types of behavior will be addressed:

  1. Abuse of any person, including, but not limited to, harassment, stalking, bullying, or hazing of any kind, whether the behavior is carried out verbally, physically, electronically, or in written form; or
  2. Conduct that is unwelcome, offensive, indecent, obscene, or disorderly.

This plan should also identify steps the proposing organization will take to nurture an inclusive off-campus or off-site working environment, e.g., trainings; processes to establish shared team definitions of roles, responsibilities, and culture, e.g., codes of conduct; and field support, such as mentor/mentee support mechanisms, regular check-ins, and/or developmental events.

Communications within team and to the organization should be considered in the plan, minimizing singular points within the communications pathway (e.g., a single person overseeing access to a single satellite phone), and any special circumstances such as the involvement of multiple organizations or the presence of third parties in the working environment should be taken into account. The process or method for making incident reports as well as how any reports received will be resolved should also be accounted for.

The organization’s plan for the proposal must be disseminated to individuals participating in the off-campus or off-site research prior to departure. Proposers should not submit the plan to NSF for review.


Several solicitations from BIO and GEO will soon require the submission of a Safe and Inclusive Work Environments Plan (list of solicitations to date below) that will be considered as part of the Broader Impacts criteria during the review process.

This 2-page supplementary document must address the following four sections:

  • a brief description of the field setting and unique challenges for the team;
  • the steps the proposing organization will take to nurture an inclusive off-campus or off-site working environment, including processes to establish shared team definitions of roles, responsibilities, and culture, e.g., codes of conduct, trainings, mentor/mentee mechanisms and field support that might include regular check-ins, and/or developmental events; 
  • communication processes within the off-site team and to the organization(s) that minimize singular points within the communication pathway (e.g., there should not be a single person overseeing access to a single satellite phone); and  the organizational mechanisms that will be used for reporting, responding to, and resolving issues of harassment if they arise.  

Solicitations Involved in the Pilot and Timeline for Requirement

The solicitations that are part of the pilot effort to date are:

BIO core solicitations:

  • Division of Environmental Biology (NSF 23-549)
  • Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (NSF 23-547)
  • Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (NSF 23-548)
  • Biodiversity on a Changing Planet (BoCP, NSF 23-542)
  • Pathways into the Geosciences (GEOPAths, NSF 23-540)
  • Cultural Transformation in the Geosciences Community (CTGC, NSF 23-539)

Resources on Field Safety

Blonder, B.W., 2023. Carrying the moral burden of safe fieldwork. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 104(1), p.e02031.

Clancy, K.B., R. G. Nelson, J. N. Rutherford, and K. Hinde. 2014. Survey of academic field experiences (SAFE): Trainees report harassment and assault. PloS One 9(7): p.e102172.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership and California State University Desert Studies (2021). Report of the Workshop to Promote Safety in Field Sciences, March 24-26, 2021. DOI: 10 5281/zenodo 5841983

Davis, K.E., P. Meehan, C.  Klehm, S. Kurnick, and C. Cameron. 2021. Recommendations for safety education and training for graduate students directing field projects. Advances in Archaeological Practice 9(1):74-80.

Demery, A. J. C., and M.A. Pipkin. 2021. Safe fieldwork strategies for at-risk individuals, their supervisors and institutions. Nature Ecology & Evolution 5(1): 5-9.

Ecological Society of America. 2022. Water cooler Chat:  Safe and inclusive field research: How can the proposed new NSF supplementary doc help achieve this?

Emery, N. C., E. K. Bledsoe, A. O. Hasley, and C. D. Eaton. 2021. Cultivating inclusive instructional and research environments in ecology and evolutionary science. Ecology and Evolution 11(4): 1480-1491.

Flowers, S. K., O’Connell, K., & McDermott, V. M. (2021). Crafting Field Station and Marine Lab Communities for Undergraduate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America102(4), e01908.

Fournier A. M., and A. L. Bond. 2015. Volunteer field technicians are bad for wildlife ecology. Wildlife Society Bulletin 39(4): 819-821.

Giles, S., Jackson, C. and Stephen, N., 2020. Barriers to fieldwork in undergraduate geoscience degrees. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 1(2), pp.77-78.

Hayes, K., Carter, T., Cook, P., Twaddell, E. and Buma, B., 2022. Supporting graduate field leadership through community‐sourced advice, action, and policy. Ecosphere, 13(9), p.e4247.

John, C. M., and S. B. Khan 2018. Mental health in the field. Nature Geoscience 11(9): 618-620.

Kelly, A., and K. Yarincik. 2021. Report of the workshop to promote safety in field sciences, March 24-26, 2021. Consortium for Ocean Leadership and California State University Desert Studies. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5604956.

Langen, T.A., J.L. Beach, J.T. Boulerice,  L.W. Halstrom V, A.R. Lamb, A.M. Ross. 2022. How to be a professional ecological field technician or an effective supervisor of them. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. 103(3) 1-23, E01985.

McGill, B. M., M. J. Foster, A. N. Pruitt, S. G. Thomas, E. R. Arsenault, J. Hanschu, K. Wahwahsuck, E. Cortez, K. Zarek, T. D. Loecke, and A. J. Burgin. 2021. You are welcome here: A practical guide to diversity, equity, and inclusion for undergraduates embarking on an ecological research experience. Ecology and Evolution 11(8): 3636-3645.

Morales, N., K. Bisbee O’Connell, S. McNulty, A. Berkowitz, G. Bowser, M. Giamellaro, and M. N. Miriti. 2020. Promoting inclusion in ecological field experiences: Examining and overcoming barriers to a professional rite of passage. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 101(4): p.e01742.

Morales, N. and Reano, D., 2023. Critically assessing undergraduate field experiences: understanding conceptualizations and opportunities for building inclusive programs. Integrative and Comparative Biology, p.icad008.

Nelson, R. G., J. N. Rutherford, K. Hinde, and K. B. Clancy. 2017. Signaling safety: Characterizing fieldwork experiences and their implications for career trajectories. American Anthropologist 119(4): 710-722.

Peixotto, B., Klehm, C. and Eifling, K.P., 2021. Rethinking research sites as wilderness activity sites: reframing health, safety, and wellness in archaeology. Advances in Archaeological Practice, 9(1), pp.1-9.

Ramírez-Castañeda, V., Westeen, E.P., Frederick, J., Amini, S., Wait, D.R., Achmadi, A.S., Andayani, N., Arida, E., Arifin, U., Bernal, M.A. and Bonaccorso, E., 2022. A set of principles and practical suggestions for equitable fieldwork in biology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(34), p.e2122667119.

Rudzki, E.N., Kuebbing, S.E., Clark, D.R., Gharaibeh, B., Janecka, M.J., Kramp, R., Kohl, K.D., Mastalski, T., Ohmer, M.E., Turcotte, M.M. and Richards‐Zawacki, C.L., 2022. A guide for developing a field research safety manual that explicitly considers risks for marginalized identities in the sciences. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 13(11), pp.2318-2330.

Trisos, C.H., J. Auerbach, and M. Katti. 2021. Decoloniality and anti-oppressive practices for a more ethical ecology. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 5(9): 1205-1212.

Zebracki, M. and Greatrick, A., 2022. Inclusive LGBTQ+ fieldwork: Advancing spaces of belonging and safety. Area, 54(4), pp.551-557.