EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Social safety in the field – preparing the students, our future colleagues

Kalijn Peters, Steye Verhoeve, and Wiebe Nijland
Kalijn Peters et al.
  • Utrecht University, Earth Sciences, UTRECHT, Netherlands (

Watching the documentary ‘The Leadership’ led to a consentient discussion amongst colleagues. In this documentary a group of female scientists set off on a cruise to learn about and experience leadership. Personal experiences, what happens on board and statistics about social safety, show that feeling socially safe and included is still an issue amongst (female) scientists, especially when working in the field. The significantly high numbers of female field scientists in STEM research having experienced discrimination, gender inequality and (sexual) harassment cannot be ignored, so we decided this subject has to be embedded in our bachelor curriculum.

In order to enhance social safety in our earth sciences program, we set up a workshop on this subject for our bachelor students as part of a 15ECTS fieldwork course. In the field, students are physically and mentally challenged, while operating in an often unfamiliar environment, working in bigger and smaller groups, for longer periods of time and integrating all they have learned over the past year(s). With the many challenges this encompasses, they will likely face the boundaries of their comfort zone. This makes them more vulnerable and increases the risk of creating an unsafe working, studying/living environment. However, when treated with care, these experiences can have a significant positive impact on the students personal growth and become beneficial to their professional skills and learning.

The workshop we designed starts with discussing daily practicalities and individual responsibilities, including sanitary hygiene and proper field-equipment, and continues with professional attitude, an exercise on group dynamics, how to function in a team that is not your own choice, and getting to know your teammates in a playful manner. We finish with the discussion of (sexual) harassment, providing tools to become an active bystander, and giving the students case studies of socially (un)safe settings in the field. They present these case studies to each other on how they would react, reflecting on their own capabilities and responsibilities.

After this first year, student evaluations and discussions with field staff point out that this is a valuable part of the fieldwork. For example the staff could more easily refer to some manners discussed in the workshop, and the students could recognize the case studies and use this to tackle unsafe situations at an earlier stage. We now continue with optimizing the existing workshop, and would like to exchange experiences about this subject with colleagues to enhance improvement of social safety and personal growth in the field for both students and teaching staff.

How to cite: Peters, K., Verhoeve, S., and Nijland, W.: Social safety in the field – preparing the students, our future colleagues, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-4384,, 2023.