One of the strengths of the North American Society for Bat Research (NASBR) is the diversity of our study organisms, and the diverse scientific methods and sub-disciplines investigated by our members. Similarly, the diversity in our membership represents an important strength of the Society, and NASBR is committed to promoting a platform where all members can equally participate in scientific discourse and the exchange of scientific ideas. The Society expects all participants in any Society business or functions, including, but not limited to, meeting attendees, speakers, volunteers, exhibitors, staff, vendors and service providers, to ensure a welcoming environment, and an environment free from belittlement, discrimination, or harassment. As stated in our Code of Conduct, the Society prohibits discrimination or harassment by, or against, any member of NASBR based on age, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, or disability. The stated missions of the Society are best met when all participants treat each other with civility, encouragement, tolerance, and mutual respect. Any member of the Society that is subject to, or witnesses, discrimination is encouraged to contact the ombudsperson.
ROLE OF SCIENCE
Scientific evidence is the fundamental underpinning of advancement and discovery in technology, production, agriculture, medicine, and all aspects of nature. The scientific method emphasizes the objective consideration of observations and evidence to develop hypotheses and scientific understanding. As a scientific society representing a diverse membership, the North American Society for Bat Research (NASBR) strongly believes that scientific investigation and discovery flourish when ideas and information are freely exchanged and undergo critical evaluation by members of the scientific community without fear of intimidation, retaliation, or suppression, as outlined in our Inclusion Statement and Code of Conduct. Scientific information forms the basis of decisions and policies made to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural world. NASBR strongly supports objective, evidence-based decision- and policy-making, and denounces malicious efforts to undermine the validity of the scientific process, or active disregard for objective facts.
NASBR STATEMENT OF SUPPORT FOR BLACK SCIENTISTS
The North American Society for Bat Research (NASBR) is saddened and moved by the long history of violence against the Black community and the systemic racism and intolerance that pervades the United States, including the role that scientists have played in perpetuating racism. We strongly condemn racism and discrimination in all forms, and we believe that science and society at large are best served when people treat each other with compassion, civility, encouragement, and mutual respect. We believe that Black lives matter.
NASBR stands with our Black members, as we do with all members who are people of color. Our Society and its mission are enriched through the diversity of our members. We are committed to being better allies and advocates for all minoritized groups. However, we recognize that our Society’s membership is not reflective of the racial diversity of people in North America, and we aim to change this. Creating an inclusive, diverse, and equitable Society is part of our values, and we strive to continue moving NASBR towards this goal. To achieve this, we are establishing a fund specifically devoted to bringing Black student researchers to our annual conference. Members will provide the initial monies to create this fund, and we will seek funding from larger diversity initiatives to sustain this effort. We will continue to promote participation by people of color in our scientific and educators’ sessions. We will reserve time during our annual conferences for purposeful collaboration towards developing long-term solutions that will allow us to overcome our deficits.
We acknowledge that there is much more work we need to do, and the NASBR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and Board of Directors are eager to work with and to challenge our members to drive positive change. As always, we welcome discussion. We are listening, we will not forget, and we will do better.
UNPAID AND UNDERPAID FIELD TECHNICIAN POSITIONS
Many field projects in ecology, conservation, and wildlife biology rely heavily on unpaid, underpaid, or volunteer field technicians. Unpaid or underpaid technicians are generally considered to do the work for career-building, whereas volunteers serve in a more altruistic capacity unrelated to career development. Principal investigators often justify this by describing the technician positions as beneficial to professional development or in considering their projects infeasible without volunteer labor. However, project reliance on unpaid or underpaid technicians, especially those from North American and Europe, excludes those who cannot work without compensation, exacerbating inequities in training opportunities for students, early-career biologists, and other scientists local to where the research is being conducted.
Field technician positions often require working away from home for several weeks or months, involve work hours equivalent to or exceeding a full-time job, and do not allow technicians the flexibility to attend to family responsibilities. Unpaid, underpaid, and volunteer technician positions therefore are often only available to those with inherent privileges, precluding participation by those with hardships (Whitaker 2003; Fournier and Bond 2015), and may be limited in the professional benefits they provide to participants (Fournier et al. 2019). Providing adequate pay also should attract more diverse students to field experiences (Jensen et al. 2021).
The ability to go without pay for an extended period of time requires the technician to have very limited expenses, to rely on savings or financial support from others, or to take on debt. Biologists with financial responsibilities or family obligations, such as caring for young children or elderly family members, are therefore excluded from field positions that do not offer fair pay. Further, unpaid, underpaid, and volunteer technician positions include all the dangers of fieldwork but provide no medical benefits, so only technicians covered by family health insurance or those willing to risk injury with no protection are eligible (Parsons and Scarlett 2020). The impetus for running a project with unpaid, underpaid, and volunteer technicians is often financial, though the use of these technicians does not make a project less expensive to run. Instead, it transfers personnel costs to the students or early-career biologists who serve in underpaid roles.
The use of unpaid, underpaid, and volunteer field technicians also has implications for training biologists abroad. Many international projects are staffed mostly by North American and European technicians of means, depriving local researchers of opportunities for valuable training and for establishing themselves internationally. When technicians from other countries, particularly from North America and Europe, are used instead of local students and local early-career biologists, a project fails to contribute to building lasting in-country research and conservation capacity.
Ending the use of unpaid, underpaid, and volunteer field technicians in ecology, conservation, and wildlife biology requires a cultural shift driven by scientific societies, senior members in the field, management and funding agencies, academic and research departments, and universities. The students and early-career biologists most harmed by unfair practices are understandably often apprehensive of speaking out against potential future graduate advisors or employers. Therefore, to promote and normalize the practice of equitable for field technicians, it is critical that research institutions and funding agencies advertise the requirement of fair compensation for all personnel; likewise, the publications and presentations stemming from the work of field technicians must acknowledge that all personnel have been appropriately compensated.
In recognition of the burdens that are placed on unpaid, underpaid, and volunteer technicians, and of the negative impacts of these technician positions on the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in scientific research, the North American Society for Bat Research encourages its members in North America and Europe to:
Fournier, A. M. V., and A. L. Bond. 2015. Volunteer field technicians are bad for wildlife ecology. Wildlife Society Bulletin 39: 819–821.
Fournier, A. M. V., A. J. Holford, A. L. Bond, and M. A. Leighton. 2019. Unpaid work and access to science professions. PLoS One 14: e0217032.
Jensen, A. J., S. P. Bombaci, L. C. Gigliotti, S. N. Harris, C. J. Marneweck, et al. 2021. Attracting diverse students to field experiences requires adequate pay, flexibility, and inclusion. BioScience 71:757–770. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biab039.
Parsons, E. C. M., and A. Scarlett. The problem of toxic internships in the environmental field: guidelines for more equitable professional experiences. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 10: 352–354.
Whitaker, D. M. 2003. The use of full-time volunteers and interns by natural-resource professionals. Conservation Biology 17: 330–333.