Dear Community Members,
This letter is to inform you of the status of the Urbino Summer School in Paleoclimatology (USSP) and to let you know about recent developments regarding the school organisation and our responses to feedback that we have received. It constitutes a follow-up to the Letter to the Community sent in December 2020.
In September 2020 an anonymous community survey was initiated by member of USSP
community to collect information about participants’ and community members’ experiences or perceptions of USSP in the past. This survey was distributed on social media. 164 people responded to this survey, and results were shared with the USSP co-directors in Dec. 2020, as indicated to the survey respondents at the time of completion. While many positive experiences were recounted, a number of specific incidents that occurred over the years as well as the perception of an unhealthy or even unsafe culture were also disclosed. Before this, in 2018, the USSP co-directors had put in place a Code of Conduct and additional measures (e.g. “ombudsperson” system for safe reporting) to ensure that USSP was a safe environment free of harassment for all student and instructor participants. Over the last year and few months, the USSP co-directors have worked to further establish measures that will ensure a safe environment and a positive atmosphere of scientific exchange. We have also now addressed all of the past incidents raised in the community survey, as well as points raised in the annual post-course anonymous student feedback survey (in place since 2009), following a new strict protocol developed in collaboration with the USSP Advisory Board.
In 2021, we appointed an Advisory Board and also published new Community Standards for USSP that all will be required to adhere to; details of these are available on the new
website: https://urbinossp.wordpress.com/. Handling of past cases involved assembling
relevant documents and conducting in-depth discussions (including two co-directors and one member of the Advisory Board) with colleagues named in surveys, followed by
discussion between the co-directors and Advisory Board, and ultimately decisions were
taken by the co-directors. Depending on the nature of each case, decisions ranged from
conversations to raise awareness of the impact of certain behaviours to ensure they are not repeated to exclusion from teaching at future editions of USSP. These decisions have now been acted. Because of the confidential nature of this process, we will not provide details of or discuss specific cases however all parties involved have been notified and asked to respect the confidential nature of the decisions. This process of assessing and acting on past incidents has been long, because it necessarily involved many meetings including people across multiple time zones, and we apologize if a lack of communication on this process while it was ongoing suggested inaction on our part. We assure you that this was not the case. We would like to reiterate our sincere apologies to those people who experienced harassment or exclusion at USSP. In the past, we did not have a proper procedure in place to deal with informal or formal complaints. We apologise sincerely to anyone who felt unfairly treated and unheard during this time, including to Heather Ford for the inadequate initial response to a complaint made in 2016 and the time that it took to handle this case properly.
We are unilateral and unanimously committed to the re-launch of USSP this year. The next steps for USSP are being prepared with serious care and dedication. The overall goal is to provide a safe learning environment to participants, where open and respectful scientific discussions are encouraged. The actions taken so far and the measures planned for new editions of USSP have been designed to safeguard individuals and the nature of interactions that take place within the sphere of USSP. The USSP will monitor closely the success of these measures using various indicators (post-course feedback from both students and instructors, feedback from advisory board members present at USSP, monitoring of any complaints). We plan to organise the first USSP since 2019 this July, details will be available soon.
Any questions regarding this letter and the future of USSP can be addressed via email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org and/or
We thank you in advance for your trust and look forward to welcoming you back at new
USSP in July 2022.
The USSP co-directors: Simone Galeotti, Clara Bolton, Adina Paytan, Appy Sluijs.