Sarah Batterman talks frankly about her experience of sexual harrassment at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Its director Josh Tewkesbury describes steps taken to protect staff.

In late 2021 a BuzzFeed investigation revealed a catalogue of sexual misconduct incidents at the Panama-based Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Ecologist Sarah Batterman, one of more than a dozen women to speak out about their experiences, describes what happened to her and the impact it has had on her career.

Batterman, who filed a formal complaint to the institute in 2020 after being contacted by other women with similar experiences of harassment and abuse at STRI, tells Adam Levy: “It was almost 10 years of a lot of pain after what happened, which made a lot of my research really difficult. I estimate that I lost three of the 10 years in productivity.”

Josh Tewkesbury joined STRI as its director in July 2021, five months before the BuzzFeed story broke. He describes the measures taken to safeguard scientists from sexual harassment and assault since its investigation concluded.

“We have been working with the people that came forward for the BuzzFeed article, engaging them in the process of how we make STRI a more safe place. ” he says. “We’ve been just overwhelmed and really thankful with the degree to which those individuals have, have been willing to engage.”

This episode is part of a Working Scientist podcast series about freedom and safety in science.