Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


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© Allen Pope, Neelu Singh, Elizabeth Erickson, Ribanna Dittrich


The Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) has developed a sample code of conduct and bill of rights that can be modified for your field site

  • These documents are not intended to be legally binding. Rather, behavioural expectations and consequences of behaviours are identified 
  • All participants should read document together and foster discussion over behavioural expectations
  • A code of conduct committee should be appointed to enforce the code of conduct
  • Multiple reporting avenues should be identified for disclosing harassment or discrimination
  • The document is intended to be a living document and should be periodically reviewed and revised 
  • Evidence shows that enforcement of consequences for unacceptable behaviour is essential for the Code of Conduct to be taken seriously 


Context and Motivation

Fieldwork is an important component of social and physical polar science disciplines. It is frequently the reason why people join the polar research community, often required for academic degrees, and can result in impactful scientific outcomes regarding papers and grants.  Preparation for polar fieldwork is extensive and includes a project proposal, ethics approval, acquiring grants, organizing travel and accommodation at remote field sites, along with occupational health and safety requirements.

Consideration of interpersonal relationships is often neglected in this planning process. The Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE) showed a majority of respondents (64%) had personally experienced sexual harassment, overwhelmingly students, postdocs, or employees. Only 22% of respondents worked at a site with sexual harassment policy and reporting mechanisms in place, and majority of those who had reported assault were not satisfied with the outcome (Figure 1; Clancy et al., 2014). 

10.1371 journal.pone.0102172.g003
    Figure 1: Visual representation of respondents to the survey, their experiences, and who were aware of, made use of, and were satisfied by mechanisms to
    report unwanted physical contact. Clancy et al., 2014.

Evidence shows that polar field experiences are no different. A survey of the Australian Antarctic Program saw 63% of participants had experienced sexual harassment, with many not reporting due to fear of retaliation and repercussion (Nash et al., 2019). Sexual misconduct is not the only form of abusive behaviour in field settings, which can also manifest as bullying and harassment. Discrimination and harassment impacts those with minoritized identities of gender, sexuality, and/or ethnicity at a disproportionate rate (Seag et al., 2019). 

A culture that enables discrimination leads to these outcomes - polar researchers must work to build an inclusive community that retains and supports all individuals. A Code of Conduct for fieldwork can address and eradicate harassing and discriminatory practices, where guidelines for behaviour expectations at the field site are outlined and agreed upon by all field research participants.

Two template documents are provided, which can be modified by individual field teams. The Bill of Rights outlines a set of liberties afforded to all team members throughout the course of the field campaign. The APECS code of conduct contains effective mechanisms (as defined by ADVANCEGeo), which are:

      • Identification and definition of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour
      • Details on reporting and investigative procedures
      • Inclusion of protection against retaliation
      • Built in mechanism for evaluation and revision




ADVANCEGeo. Codes of Conduct,

Aurora and Gardiner, 2018, How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports. Access:  

Clancy, K. B., Nelson, R. G., Rutherford, J. N., & Hinde, K. (2014). Survey of academic field experiences (SAFE): Trainees report harassment and assault.
PloS one, 9(7), e102172.

Nash, M., Nielsen, H. E., Shaw, J., King, M., Lea, M. A., & Bax, N. (2019). “Antarctica just has this hero factor…”: Gendered barriers to Australian Antarctic research and remote fieldwork.
PloS one, 14(1).

Seag, M., Badhe, R., & Choudhry, I. (2019). Intersectionality and international polar research. Polar Record, 1-5.

Miesel, J. (2018). Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Resources for Targets and their Allies. ESA Early Career Section blog. Access:

Contact APECS

APECS International Directorate
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Huginbakken 14
9019 Tromsø
Email: info(at)

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