Fieldwork is an essential part of many geographers' research. In some cases, it is the only option for data collection and is often, an adventurous learning experience. However, fieldwork is not without challenges that include practical issues working with new field research methods or living in unfamiliar places. These logistical problems sit alongside challenges to personal welfare such as risks to physical safety in the field and negative impacts on mental health from working on difficult subject areas or in stressful environments.

The SoGE Fieldworkers' Network aims to support fieldworkers through these challenges, at any stage of their career. The Network was established in response to a demand for facilitated, but informal, experience sharing between fieldworkers and is open to anyone in the department who does, or has done, fieldwork.

We support and connect fieldworkers in the department with regular fieldwork-focused seminars and contacts database. This database facilitates connections and collaborations between fieldworkers who work, or have worked, in the same countries or used the same research methods. We encourage informal conversations that are so important for successful fieldwork to make it easier for people to find field assistants, safe accommodation and the best restaurants in town!

Catherine conducting interviews in Gola, Fentale district, Ethiopia in May 2018.

Catherine conducting interviews in Gola, Fentale district, Ethiopia in May 2018.

The SoGE Fieldworkers' Network is actively involved in supporting early career researchers with planning and welfare in fieldwork. The network is a fantastic resource for early career fieldworkers given the extensive collective knowledge and experience in the department. More experienced fieldworkers also benefit from the Network when planning to work in a new country or use unfamiliar field methods.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that fieldwork has mostly been on hold since March 2020 and fieldworkers have had to re-think their research designs and work differently with in-country partners. For early career fieldworkers, the uncertainty of travel and interruptions or delays in fieldwork has been highly disruptive as many are working to a set timeline and with small budgets. With this in mind, and given the fact that fieldwork is slowly starting to resume, this is a great time to officially launch the SoGE Fieldworkers' Network as a lifeline of support for fieldworkers in the department.

Our next event is a Welfare in Fieldwork seminar at 12pm on Thursday 5th November which will be a conversation with Jerika Loren Heinze, the founder of the Fieldwork Initiative, an organisation that addresses sexual harassment in research fieldwork worldwide. You can find details of how to join the event and register for free online.

Welfare in Fieldwork Seminar
Further information

The SoGE Fieldworkers' Network was established by postdoc Dr Catherine Grasham and DPhil student Shona Loong to facilitate informal experience sharing among fieldworkers in the department. In this post, Catherine reflects on how the Network came into being and how you can benefit from being a part of it.

SoGE members can join the Fieldworkers' Network any time by filling in this short form.

Dr Catherine Fallon Grasham is a postdoctoral researcher on the REACH team and joined SoGE in 2017. Her research centres on water security and inequality in Ethiopia, where she has conducted multiple field visits, including a 12-month stay during her DPhil.