Fellow Story

Study finds FieldFutures training program helps prevent harassment in fieldwork

Fieldwork is an important and often necessary component of many scientific disciplines, yet it can also be a high-risk setting for incidents of sexual harassment and assault, “especially for members of historically marginalized groups and people whose presence in scientific spaces threatens traditional hierarchies of power, authority, and legitimacy”. 

FieldFutures was founded by Switzer Fellows Melissa Cronin and Erika Zavaleta in order to build safer, more equitable, and more welcoming field settings. Their trainings teach participants to prevent, intervene in, and effectively report incidents of sexual harassment and assault in field settings.

An infographic describing the research paper by FieldFutures.
Image: @FieldFutures, X

A recent study in Scientific Reports found that the FieldFutures training works. The FieldFutures team and collaborators assessed the impact of the 90-min interactive training on hundreds of California Department of Fish and Wildlife employees before and after the workshop. 

Participants reported significantly more knowledge about and ability to prevent, intervene in, and report harassment and assault after taking the training compared to before. 

“We really want to prevent incidents before they happen,” Cronin told UC Santa Cruz News. “And we do this by using tools from the literature that help people build positive environments where the norm is such that you don’t let harassment happen.”

They also discovered that the effects of the training lasted longer than predicted. 

“We had hypothesized that the effects of participating in the just 90-minute training might be short-lived,” Zavaleta told UC Santa Cruz News. “And that’s not what we found. To a large degree, across all demographic groups, months after the training people still felt and reported an elevated sense of knowledge about this issue, confidence that they could respond and desire to respond — both in prevention and reporting.”

“I think that has to do with the fact that the training is live and interactive and that it is tailored to fieldwork,” Cronin said. “This is the first training for which we have concrete evidence that it works.”

The Switzer Foundation is offering a session of the 90-minute FieldFutures training for the Switzer Network on April 4, 2024. Through a series of practical intervention scenarios led by a skilled facilitator, participants will learn and practice tangible prevention skills via positive organizational climate-setting.

Grounded in the latest evidence-based research on harassment prevention and organizational psychology, the session is designed to help participants build knowledge, competency, and self-efficacy so they can set and enforce positive norms in fieldwork settings. 

Originally developed in 2018 with support from the Thoreau Foundation and CAMINO at UC Santa Cruz, the FieldFutures workshop draws from the founders’ decades of expertise in scientific fieldwork and equity programming. Learn more at www.fieldfutures.org.

The training is open to all Switzer Fellows. It will be of particular interest to fellows who work or manage others in field settings.

“No one should be excluded from field science by sexual harassment and assault,” said Zavaleta, emphasizing the broad benefits of creating safe fieldwork environments for all. “[Other benefits] include things like addressing threats to biodiversity and tackling climate change. This work is really connected to solving these other big challenges in addition to equity.”

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UC Santa Cruz News Story

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More recent research on the program