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Note From the Editor: Duty of Care, or Rather Sorry than Safe?

VU International News and Reviews No. 99 October 9 2017

October 2017

In my previous Newsletter (98), I mentioned a publication by the Erasmus University Rotterdam of Security Guidelines for field research in complex, remote and hazardous places. At a seminar in The Hague on the “Duty of Care” of universities, it became clear that universities have a far more extensive responsibility towards their researchers in hazardous environments that many of them realize.

When unpleasant things happen and are brought to court, judges tend to assume that people – also academics – tend to be careless and that universities must go out of their way to minimise risk and maximise risk awareness among their researchers. A policy document and a manual for risk mitigation are not enough. If the university can’t demonstrate that it has offered specific training programmes to researchers going into hazardous places – and made sure the researchers actually attend – the judge may well find the university negligent in this “duty of care” with all financial, legal and above all reputational damage that we can imagine.

Enhancing good practice in Duty of Care for academics – and students – travelling to high-risk areas seems like an excellent “Aurora topic”!

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