SAFEResearch Handbook




This book is aimed at supporting researchers at all career levels — from doctoral students to seasoned researchers and supervisors — who are preparing for or engaged in on-the-ground research in challenging environments. Taking stock of existing approaches and drawing on firsthand experiences with fieldwork in regions of conflict, the handbook provides a guiding framework that will enable higher-education staff and students to undertake fieldwork as safely as possible. The target audience is not restricted to academics and professional researchers; we hope this book proves a valuable resource for policy practitioners and consultants, institutional administrators, journalists, non-academic research professionals, and anyone invested in ensuring safe and ethical research.

SAFEResearch in Hostile Environments is written in an accessible, easy-to-read style. Each chapter concludes with a checklist, so that  supervisors and researchers can easily develop security frameworks suited to the context of their work. The book contains advice on further resources for implementing the guidance from the different chapters, including templates for conducting proper risk assessments, technical advice and step-by-step software instructions,  as well as information on organizations that could provide practical hostile-environment training or can provide more case specific digital security know-how.




Chapter 2: Fieldwork Preparation

This chapter deals with how researchers can take precautions before venturing into the field, to ensure personal safety and the safety of interlocutors. This will include researching legalities, threat and risk assessment, and constructing emergency response plans. The chapter also covers issues on informal procedures concerning the everyday contact among scholars and different authorities as well as advice on how to designate an adequate home contact.

Chapter 3: In the Field

This chapter deals with the effective implementation of the precautions taken prior to the field, such as making dynamic risk assessments to continuously manage strategies in case of unforeseen changes in risk. Drawing on the experience of various Human Rights Organizations and NGO's, the chapter includes advice on behavior in various emergencies including natural disaster, medical emergencies, security emergencies and more. These aspects also extend to local contacts, and the chapter will provide advice on how to handle the risk of interlocutors.

Chapter 4: After the Field

This chapter aims to provide advice for researchers in the process of transitioning from fieldwork to writing. It deals with both practical issues such as securing data and the personal security of the researcher and the interlocutors in the long-term. Also with issues that the researcher may face when coming home from the field, such as psychological issues of trauma or having trouble "coming home" from the field. Finally, the chapter deals with how to evaluate the fieldwork preparation and the experiences from the field, in order to improve future application. 

Chapter 5: Digital Security

This chapter deals with ways the researcher can secure communication and data storage. The chapter handles on the one hand general guidelines when it comes to codes of conduct and advice for communication, data collection, interviews etc. In addition, it deals with practical advice to secure your communication and data storage-process, and provides step-by-step guides to distinct software for encryption, anonymous communication, etc.  







Emma Beal

Investigative Journalist

Osama Diab

Investigative Journalist / EIPR

Jannis Julien Grimm

Freie Universität Berlin

Kevin Koehler

Nato Defense College Rome



Florian Kohstall

Freie Universität Berlin in Cairo

Sylvain Lefebvre

Protection International

Ellen Lust

University of Gothenburg

Daniel T.R. Masterson

Yale University



Morana Miljanovic

Centre for Internet and Human Rights

Sarah Parkinson

Johns Hopkins University

Mara Revkin

Yale University

Alessandra Russo

Sciences Po Bordeaux



Ilyas Saliba

WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Isabell Schierenbeck

University of Gothenburg

Francesco Strazzari

Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

Vasilis Ververis

OONI / The Tor Project



Kersti Wissenbach

DATACTIVE / University of Amsterdam