According to a study, scientists are increasingly confronted with hostility, insults and even threats. In a representative survey, almost half of the researchers (45 percent) stated that they had experienced harassment or attacks in some form.

“The majority reported an increase in hostility,” said Clemens Blümel, who led the study at the German Center for University and Science Research (DZHW), to the dpa news agency. 70 percent of respondents said they were seeing an increase in anti-science sentiment. The weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” first reported on the results of the representative survey.

Christian Drosten – Insulted and insulted

During the Corona pandemic, many experts reported insults and hate comments, including even death threats, after appearing in the media. As a witness in court, virologist Christian Drosten described how a couple insulted and insulted him at a campsite in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The couple was warned because of the verbal hostility; the verdict is not yet final. At the end of 2023, almost half of those surveyed by the DZHW reported attacks, mostly of a verbal nature.

According to study director Blümel, the hostility not only affects professors, but also people in all positions in the academic community. As far as personal experiences are concerned, multiple answers were possible in the survey. Condescending statements and deliberately hurtful criticism were mentioned most frequently (35 percent) – with the aim of doubting the researcher’s competence.

Personal discrimination was reported in 12 percent of cases. Hate speech (7 percent) and property damage, vandalism or even death threats (less than 5 percent) were less common. The respondents also had the opportunity to give open answers and describe their experiences in more detail. One person received the threat: “Wait until we are in power, then you will see what we do with people like you!”

The study by the DZHW based in Hanover was carried out in cooperation with the KAPAZ project network (capacities and competencies in dealing with hate speech and anti-science). Since July 2023, there has been a central, nationwide advice center for researchers (Scicomm Support) that aims to provide support in the event of specific hostilities. The study results should also be incorporated into the work of this advisory center.