Harassment in laboratories | By Pere Puigdomenech

The cases of harassment in the University and Research Centers They appear in the media. This advertising can be interesting, because it should serve to prevent this type of behavior. That it is news may also be due to the fact that we would have to wait for these cases to occur less in institutions dedicated to the cultivation of disciplines of a high intellectual and cultural level. That these cases occur in these environments seems to contradict its own function

In classrooms and research centers there is an inevitable situation of hierarchy between teacher and student and between supervisor and supervised. This hierarchy can make one feel feeling of advantage of which some take advantage and which is what must be prevented, stopped and punished if they occur. There are cases in which the procedures to follow they are relatively clear. There may be sexual or labor harassment and, when there is a complaint, there is legislation that establishes how cases that may reach the judicial system are investigated and resolved. Institutions have (or should have) protocols to deal with these issues and disciplinary codes to resolve them.

In academic and scientific environments there are more specific cases that are not contemplated in the existing legislation. He CSIC Code of Good Scientific Practices of the year 2011 dedicates a chapter to “Training and Supervision & rdquor; in which the obligations of the director or tutor are described, which include recognition of the work of the researcher in training and those of the latter, which include following the advice of the tutor or recognizing the management and administration work that the latter can carry out. In a diverse and competitive environment such as that of current scientific research, a very complex casuistry can arise that comes from different perspectives held by different actors.

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Some of that complexity comes from the contractual relations that all the actors have. Very often scientific training is carried out within the framework of a doctoral education of which a research project is an essential component. The balance between training and research work can be interpreted differently from different perspectives. The old ones predoctoral fellowships they are becoming contracts that in the case of postdocs have an indefinite character. On the other hand, the supervisor is very often a public official. And the public function has regulations that are poorly adapted to the diversity of relationships that occur in research environments and does not facilitate the disciplinary investigation of the cases that occur.

All this leads to conflicts between the perspectives of researchers who work with competitive funds of those who must be accountable and researchers in training who are at the same time contract workers. The expectations of one and the other may be contradictory and what for one may be a normal requirement of a research project for the other may be excessive demands or even harassment. Resolving these conflicts cannot be done in judicial terms, but by mediation systems that have already been implemented in most of the institutions of our country. Also in these settings, training systems for all levels of researchers on topics of Good Practice have already been implemented. The cases are still not many, but they warn of a situation that can deteriorate the reputation of Universities and Research Centers.