Sexual harassment plagues Antarctic research.chemistry
The U.S. Antarctic research program is riddled with sexual harassment and assault, according to a report released last week. People who work in the community take complaints of harassment seriously, protect victims and punish perpetrators, and some groups are less aware of the problem than others.
Overall, 72% of women report that sexual harassment is a community issue, according to a 2021 study cited in the report. The survey covers people who have worked in Antarctica in the last three years and includes not only scientists but also support staff such as cooks and janitors, as well as military personnel. That figure was 48% for men and just 40% for leaders, regardless of gender. Attitudes regarding how complaints were handled showed similar gender differences. For example, 46% of her men believed that criminals should be held accountable, whereas only 26% of women thought they were to blame.
This report is based on interviews, focus groups, and anonymous survey responses, and while it does not attempt to quantify the extent of sexual misconduct in the program, it does offer some harsh anecdotal accounts. “Every woman I know has been assaulted or harassed,” one interviewee was quoted as saying. I can’t invite you to come,” said another. The report identifies McMurdo, a sprawling research station that holds more than 1,000 people during peak summer months, as the epicenter, but where the U.S. Antarctic Research Program operates, including the Amundsen-Scott Antarctic and Palmer Studies. It notes that problems of sexual harassment have been identified everywhere: stations, research vessels, and remote sites.
Roberta Marinelli, who heads the NSF’s Polar Programs office, said: chemistryIn a statement accompanying the report’s release, the NSF said the report “raises serious concerns.”
“The report was more shocking than we expected,” said Helen Fricker, a professor at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of San Diego who studies the Antarctic ice sheet. She has heard “pretty awful stories” from colleagues who have worked in Antarctica, like geophysicist Jane Willenbring. He was bullied and sexually harassed by an alumni advisor while working in a remote field since 1999.chemistry reports her experience in 2017. ) But the report “shows that it was definitely far more widespread than I thought,” says Fricker. “Some of what these people have been through is criminal. … I mean literally people talked about rape.
The report also raises concerns about law enforcement. “Many members of the community we spoke to experienced poor efforts to prevent or respond appropriately to sexual assault and harassment, failing to hold criminals accountable. I feel deeply betrayed by what I have done,” the report said.
In 2013, the NSF established the Polar Code of Conduct. This expressly prohibits “physical or verbal abuse of any person, including but not limited to harassment, stalking, bullying, or harassment of any kind.” Consequences of a breach could include removal from Antarctica. But the decision whether to punish harassers falls to a patchwork of educational institutions, businesses, and federal agencies overseeing Antarctic workers, many of whom are trusted to thoroughly investigate complaints. Not.
“We have seen numerous cases where human resources were reported to and people who behaved inappropriately appeared to have no repercussions,” one person was quoted as saying in the report. . “What would you do if you were being harassed outside your institution?” asked one scientist. “NSF needs to develop mechanisms to deal with situations like this.” Some say it’s not practical to leave investigations and enforcement to the Title IX office of an educational institution “14,000 miles away.”
NSF is committed to change. In response to the report, Marinelli said, the authorities “think there are several things we have to work on at the same time. We want a prevention-oriented environment. We want people who have had negative experiences to feel safe.” I want to be able to report it I want it to be effective I will seek disciplinary action if warranted We want to be fair to everyone on the ice I have.”
For now, says Willenbring, an associate professor at Stanford University, “it’s really disappointing.” When stories about her experience spread among the #MeToo movement, she hoped her NSF would make changes to protect vulnerable people working in Antarctica. The agency has enacted a policy stating that it “may take into account sexual harassment decisions from the university’s Title IX office when making funding decisions. Harassment and assault have occurred in Antarctica.” “Who are the ignorant people who haven’t listened to people in the last five years?”