Undisciplined: What’s a Social Scientist Doing in Antarctica?

Dr. Melissa Haeffner, a member of the SSRN team, has some fantastic news about an upcoming research adventure she is about to start. We don’t want to steal Melissa’s thunder, so we’ll let her do the rest of the talking. Thanks for sharing in this exciting guest post, Melissa!

I was in the dissertation stage of my PhD research in 2012 when SSRN hired me as an Abstract Classifier for the Sustainability Research and Policy Network (SRPN). My dissertation was completed on time because the position allowed me to work remotely from my field site in Mexico.

Whenever I meet scholars in other countries who don’t have the same access to journal publications as we do in the United States, I tell them about SSRN. They appreciate the opportunity to stay on the cutting edge of social science research through the Open Access  SSRN provides. Now I am thrilled about an upcoming opportunity to do some cutting edge social science research myself.


What business does a social scientist have in Antarctica? When most people think of science in Antarctica, they think of taking ice core samples or tracking penguins, but Antarctica houses another population ripe for sampling, and that is the researchers themselves. Luckily, others agree.

I have been selected to join 77 other scientists on the largest-ever all-women expedition to Antarctica scheduled for December 2-21, 2016! This expedition aims to build a global network of transdisciplinary scholarship and create leadership opportunities for women in science.

As one of the few social scientists selected, I plan to make the most of my trip. In addition to the work involved with being a part of this expedition, I self-designed a research project called “Undisciplined: Leading Climate Solutions by Bridging the Sciences,” to collect data from climate scientists on the enablers and barriers to collaborating across disciplines. I expect my findings to be valuable to social scientists who want to engage with natural scientists on climate issues but who are unsure of how to get started.

This expedition is just the beginning! This world-class initiative, organized by Homeward Bound, is the start of a 10-year outreach project to build a 1,000 strong global collaboration of women in science. The voyage will also form part of a documentary series exploring the role of women in our world. It is an incredible opportunity not just for me but for all women in science.

Since traveling to Antarctica is very costly, I am funding my part of the expedition with an Instrumentl campaign.  Instrumentl is a great way for researchers to crowd source their research and I hope you will consider supporting my project by making a tax-deductible donation.

UPDATE: Dr. Haeffner has since reached her funding goal with Instrumentl. We are appreciative to all who helped make this research expedition possible. We look forward to many penguin pictures from Antarctica!

Melissa Haeffner, PhD, is a post-doctoral researcher with iUTAH (iUTAH innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion Hydro-sustainability) in the Sociology Department at Utah State University. Her work focuses on bridging the social and natural sciences to advance scholarship in water management and climate-related hazards. She teaches courses in environmental sociology, political ecology, and global cities. Melissa completed her doctorate in Human-Environment Interactions at Colorado State University. She holds a Master of Science in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts in Sociology from DePaul University.