Off-site working and fieldwork
Fieldwork is taken to include interviewing and other methods of data collection which involve the researcher leaving the building. It is clear that the majority of the work is safe, but there are occasions when there might be difficulties, and the aim is to always minimise risks.
For each project, researchers and supervisors should have a meeting to discuss safety. If required, the researcher and supervisor will complete and sign a risk assessment form. These procedures may need to be reviewed and amended as the research progresses.
For fieldwork involving the public, there are also public engagement considerations. Talk to your supervisor about this if you are unsure.
No single set of guidelines or instructions will suit every project and the researchers involved due to natural variations.
However, there should be discussions about safety and good practice that explore options including formal and structured systems using a designated person or more open arrangements.
Designated Person (DP)
For some projects, it is possible and necessary to follow a very formal procedure. In this case, the fieldworker(s) should have a named contact within their school and also one for out of hours.
- must be a member of staff
- could be the project supervisor
- could be someone who shares the same office or works on the same project
For out of hours fieldwork, it may be more appropriate for a friend or relative to take on this role, and the researcher may want or need to carry a mobile phone. The DP(s) must be approved by the project supervisor or adviser.
It is the role of the DP to be aware of where the fieldworker is and their likely return times following interviews or other data collection activities. In turn, the fieldworker must keep the DP informed of every interview and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of interviewees, where this is possible, as well as the likely time of return.
If the names and locations are confidential, then this information may be kept in a sealed envelope which is only opened if the fieldworker fails to return when expected.
If plans change, for example if the interview is going to take longer than expected, the fieldworker must always call the DP to give them these details.
If the fieldworker has any concerns, they must phone the DP as soon as possible.
When safely returned, the fieldworker must inform the DP. If the fieldworker does not meet the return deadline, there must be a procedure for action. This might involve using the mobile phone, or trying to contact the fieldworker or friends/relatives, or the police.
For some projects, the nature of the fieldwork is such that it is not always possible to predict exactly when and where interviewing or other data collection may take place.
The fieldworker will want to take responsibility for their own safety and good practice, and should agree a suitable pattern of working with supervisors.
Download the SafeZone app so you can get help if there is a medical or security situation while travelling.
Travel insurance cover
University of Bristol students are eligible for free travel insurance for University-related travel.
However, this is not automatically provided. Anyone travelling as part of University business must complete the online application system for the traveller to arrange their cover.
Learn more by visiting the University Travel and Personal Accident page and talk to your supervisor if you have any questions.
Additional guidance is available for student placements, talk to your supervisor for advice.