Guidance for Fieldwork Planning

Fieldwork can vary in scope, duration, or location, but it generally refers to any research that is done away from one's home institution. Examples include, but are not limited to, a weekend trip to view local geological phenomena, months of fieldwork in the Arctic, a week measuring samples at a national laboratory, or a six-month long research cruise. Fieldwork is an important component of research, education and professional training in the Department of Earth Sciences. 

Guidance for Fieldwork Planning

Successful fieldwork not only entails meeting the objectives of the field excursion and ensuring the physical safety of participating individuals, but also requires proactive strategies to promote an inclusive learning environment and protect the rights and mental well-being of at-risk individuals. At-risk individuals include marginalized identities of race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity and/or religion (Demery & Pipkin, 2020). 

To ensure successful, safe, and inclusive fieldwork, we strongly recommend that fieldwork organizers hold a pre-fieldwork meeting to discuss a set of guidelines with all participating individuals. The guidelines should ideally state the scientific objectives of the trip, safety and policy information, and the roles and responsibilities of all participants, as well as options and resources for reporting. Below is a list of points to be considered for developing guidelines for any type of fieldwork. Because each fieldwork varies in its nature (location, surrounding resources, group size/dynamic, etc.), fieldwork organizers should tailor their guidelines to the specific field requirements and individual needs.

Points to consider including in field guidelines:

Safety and Policy Information:

  • Outline Dartmouth (and department where exceptions apply) policies, as well as site-specific precautions regarding transportation, environmental hazards, level of physical activities involved, and available resources in case of medical emergencies
  • Cite Dartmouth's College Student Handbook and Dartmouth Standards of Conduct to confirm consistency with College policies regarding academic honesty, alcohol/drug usage, possession of firearms, smoking, sexual discrimination, harassment and misconduct, hazing and vehicle use
    • If applicable, check with the Department Chair where exceptions to the College policies need to be considered
    • Contact Ed Meyer for specific questions about the safety and policy for the Stretch program
  • Clearly state the rights of all participants (see example 'Field Bill of Rights' in the 'Example Field Guidelines' section below)

Roles and Responsibilities of Fieldwork Organizer:

  • Discuss the expected roles and responsibilities of each individual during the fieldwork (see page 4 of the Lamont Code of Conduct for specific examples of assigning accommodation, shared duties and responsibilities to participants) 
  • Provide site-specific physical, social and cultural information that participants should be aware of
  • Address potential challenges for any at-risk individuals in the group in order to promote a safe and inclusive environment for all participants. Within the comfort levels of participants, a pre-fieldwork survey to identify at-risk individuals and their specific needs is encouraged (see references [1]–[3] in the 'Resource References' section below)
  • Clarify the rules and expectations about the ownership and sharing of any data collected during the fieldwork

Roles and Responsibilities of All Participants:

  • Attend pre-fieldwork meetings arranged by the fieldwork organizer, read the provided guidelines in full detail, and use the meetings as opportunities to raise any concerns or suggestions for the guidelines
  • If there is no pre-fieldwork meeting arranged, participants are encouraged to request either an individual or group meeting to discuss their roles and responsibilities, as well as safety considerations, prior to the fieldwork
  • Are strongly encouraged to inform the fieldwork organizer if they self-identify as an at-risk individual and communicate any specific needs they will require in the field
  • Take any recommendations seriously and show mutual respect for the safety of other participants and for the local hosts and/or communities

Reporting Options and Resources:

  • Fieldwork organizers should provide resources and strategies for reporting any violations of the outlined information regarding safety, policies, and individual roles and responsibilities
  • This includes information about who, when, and how to contact appropriate resources for different types of violations
    • Examples of such personnel include (but are not limited to) the fieldwork organizer, program director, department chair, department ombudsperson, Title IX representatives, Off Campus Programs office and neutral third party (see Dispute Resolution Guidelines)
  • Available resources for medical aids (both physical and mental) should be readily accessible to all participating individuals, including available on-site first aid resources and contact information for off-site resources (College or third party)

Example Field Guidelines

Resource References:

[1] Safe fieldwork strategies for at-risk individuals, their supervisors and institutions (Demery & Pipkin, 2020)
[2] Ten Steps to Protect BIPOC Scholars in the Field (Anadu, Ali & Jackson, 2020)
[3] The Challenges of Fieldwork for LGBTQ+ Geoscientists (Olcott & Downen, 2020)