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New international research review on sexual harassment in academia

The Swedish Research Council has produced a research review that provides an up-to-date picture of the research that exists internationally into sexual harassment in academia. We have done this as we realised during last year’s #MeToo movement that this knowledge was lacking.

Generaldirektör Sven Stafström


One year ago, on 15 October 2017, the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment began in USA. Here in Sweden, this led to a large number of movements within various sectors, among them academia. #Akademiuppropet gathered approximately 2 500 signatures from the higher education sector. Swedish higher education institutions have therefore reinforced their work of counteracting sexual harassment, and the Government has also encouraged higher education institutions to make this work visible.

The Swedish Research Council works broadly for gender equality throughout its area of activity. We have now produced a research review that provides an up-to-date picture of the research that exists internationally into sexual harassment in academia. We have done this as we realised during last year’s #MeToo movement that this knowledge was lacking.

The authors of the review have scrutinised and analysed almost 800 publications from 1966 to 2018. The analysis shows that the majority of the top-ranked articles in the review are from USA. Most studies concern prevalence, that is to say the occurrence and frequency of sexual harassment. Here, underreporting is a general problem, as most of the persons exposed do not report the event. The studies also show very varied results for prevalence of sexual harassment in particular, which is due to factors such as differences in definitions, sample choice or the way questions are asked. Studies into perpetrators are lacking in the analysed material. Another fact that emerges is that the research field is very limited in the Nordic countries. In Sweden, we also lack major prevalence studies of high quality, particularly during the last decade.

It is my hope that this report will lead to discussions about how harassment can be prevented, but also stimulate more research within the area.

Sven Stafström, Director General, Swedish Research Council

The authors of the research review are Fredrik Bondestam and Maja Lundqvist at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg.

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