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Harassment Among Scientists

By shining a light on sexual harassment and assault among scientists, a group of researchers hopes to change the scientific culture, Marie Claire reports.

In PLOS One a few years back the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign's Kate Clancy and her colleagues reported that 70 percent of female field scientists who responded to a survey said they'd experienced sexual harassment and about a quarter said they'd experienced sexual assault at field sites. In addition, they reported that women were typically harassed by a superior.

Other studies have likewise uncovered widespread sexual harassment among clinician-researchers and the tech industry.

Marie Claire writes that Clancy and her colleagues have now followed up on that study by interviewing some of the survey respondents in depth. As they report in the American Anthropologist, they uncovered a few themes. For instance, they found that field sites where there was a code of conduct and clear consequences for breaking the rules, women did well, but at sites where the rules were unclear or unenforced, there were more instances of harassment and assault.

Marie Claire adds that many women who endured sexual harassment and assault saw their careers stall — especially, it notes, as the perpetrators were often their PIs — and a number have left research all together.

By studying and discussing the issue, Julienne Rutherford at University of Illinois at Chicago tells the magazine that they may be able to help address the situation. "I hear from people who say, 'I can now have this conversation with the people who are in a position to change things, and they have to respect it because it's on paper in black and white," she adds.

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