Safety and security is a long-neglected aspect of field-based research or fieldwork. It is important for researchers and the quality of their work. It is equally important for local collaborators and research participants. Safety and security often reflects hierarchies and inequalities in development studies, where well-insured international researchers work with partners who have no such facilities. Risks are all too often dumped on these partners.
In recent years, university managers have taken up security, often with the objective of protecting the university from liability and reputational damage. This may result in further inequalities when international researchers are denied access to the field, while contracts with collaborators are carefully void of duties of care.
It is time for the academic community to take the initiative with respect to the safety and security agenda. In recent years, significant attempts have been made by a small but growing group of individuals to create and share good practice in order to make sure that all of our researchers are as safe as possible when operating in the field. One of the contributions in this field was the drawing up of freely available guidelines, in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
This EADI round table will provide a space for discussing the safety and security agenda, identifying institutional barriers, and sharing good practice pertaining to the safety and security of researchers.
The round table format lends itself well for the sharing of ideas across the policy/research divide. The key aim of this session is to encourage the provision of realistic support to researchers without subjecting them to heavy-duty administrative procedures, which might hamper crucial research. The university has a duty of care, which is often the preserve of policy staff, whilst the researchers themselves have the experience of life in the field. Dialogue between researchers and policy staff is needed to ensure that the balance is found whereby safety concerns can be met and training provided, whilst the freedom to research is not curtailed or hampered. Both researchers and policy staff are warmly invited to attend this round table.
Dr. Rodrigo Mena, Prof. Dr. Thea Hilhorst and Linda Johnson
Can be found in the Conference Programme.