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Inclusivity in the Field Sciences

What Does Exclusion Look Like?

Being excluded from something does not have to be overt, or ill-intentioned on the part of people who are creating an atmosphere of exclusion. It can be subtle, even invisible, to most people. It can feel like a mountain that you eventually become too exhausted to keep climbing, even as you wonder why people around you are finding it so seemingly easy.

Field-based science demands that at least some people in the research community spend periods of time away from their home institution. Many times it is for extended periods, with large teams, and far removed from the typical circumstances of your home or work life. It is exciting, and challenging, and not for everyone. But what if there are people out there who wanted to do it but felt they couldn’t? Perhaps they had a disability, or family obligations, or lacked the financial means to get the required training. Perhaps they simply didn’t have any role models that made them feel it was possible for them to take that path.

If this is happening, then science is suffering. There are people who are not doing the work at which they could excel, contributions not being made, questions not being asked.

With this research, we wish to understand who is doing fieldwork. Who has opportunities to begin, and to persist? Who has opportunities to lead? What are the barriers to those who feel they do not? Check out my OPINION piece at The Scientist where I lay out what Universities and funding agencies can do to transform field science when they view it as an issue of equity.

“A Field of Our Own”: Workshop on Inclusivity in Academic Fieldwork

May 2023, Yale University Department of Anthropology will host a workshop on this topic. The format is designed to be maximally inclusive, so that we can get many different voices into the space, and develop resources and strategies that will help the most people feel welcome as field participants and field leaders.

Help us make the workshop better! Please fill out this form so we can get you on the mailing list!

Families and Fieldwork

The pandemic has shown that a backbone of our economic infrastructure is family support. A lack of this support is a barrier to job performance that disproportionately affects female-identifying people and people who have dependents but little family support (e.g. single parents).

There is little research on how the responsibilities of people who serve as “carers” (e.g. parent, guardian, or other) intersect with the decisions they make or perceptions they have of others while training or employed in field-based disciplines. This is of broad relevance across the geological, biological, social, and medical sciences – wherever fieldwork is required. Presently, data are only available for anthropology, and do not examine the broader impacts and perceptions of people working within collaborative field projects (Lynn et al. 2018).


Together with my colleagues Jamie Hodgkins (University of Colorado – Denver) and Suzanne Birch (University of Georgia), we are conducting a survey for people in all field-based sciences to better understand this issue. 

The overall aim of the survey is to determine if barriers exist for field-based researchers that can be practicably overcome. If so, then we hope to use these data to spearhead real solutions to these barriers. This is fundamentally an effort to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in field-based sciences.

We hope for participation from everyone, regardless of carer’s responsibilities, fieldwork status, specific discipline, or country of work, as this is the best way to understand broader patterns. Details of the survey length and questions, as well as informed consent, are available on the first page of the survey.


We are starting to also add visibility to this issue bit by bit. For Mother’s Day, and in a year when paleoanthropologists around the world were in the midst of planning a return to fieldwork after a multi-year pandemic hiatus, we remind you that these are not just “women’s issues”: they affect everyone:


Thompson and her family in the field in Malawi. Her husband is also an archaeologist and a logistical maestro on field projects. Bringing family members to the field enriches the experience for everyone.

To understand these


Lynn, C. D., Howells, M. E., & Stein, M. J. (2018). Family and the field: Expectations of a field-based research career affect researcher family planning decisions. PLoS One13(9), e0203500. 

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