UNH’s innovative research fieldwork safety program was honored recently with the inaugural Safety and Accountability for Researchers award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The competitive award recognizes programs that exemplify APLU’s values of creating a research environment free from harm.
“We hope that this fieldwork safety initiative is going to really encourage people who haven't felt welcome in fieldwork environments to now feel like their unique safety considerations and needs are going to be met,” says program coordinator Sophie Burke ‘21G, a postdoctoral researcher.
The research fieldwork safety effort arose, in part, from safety protocols Burke developed for fieldwork in remote subarctic Sweden, as well as from UNH researchers’ participation in anti-racism study pods called URGE (Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences). Recognizing the need to ensure psychological and interpersonal safety that creates safety for all researchers, the program leverages the expertise of UNH’s renowned Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC).
“We can't change the weather in northern New Hampshire or in Greenland. We can't change the fact that you won't have access to the Internet and be able to use your cell phones,” says PIRC Executive Director of Practice Jane Stapleton. “But there are things that we can do to increase safety, and some of that is very much related to the skills of interpersonal violence prevention.”
Much of the program’s power emanates from its grassroots beginnings. “This really started from the ground up, with a group of UNH researchers coming together and discussing a need,” says Burke.
Marian McCord, senior vice provost for research, economic engagement and outreach, echoes Burke. “Any time you implement new practices in safety, it's really important for the community to have a good understanding that the goal is prevention and not punishment,” she says.