While on a family vacation at a campsite, he was insulted as a “mass murderer” and then went to court. Another time he received mail with a kind of “human blood serum” and told the magazine “Spiegel”: “Such hate messages have become normal.” Christian Drosten became an enemy for many people during the corona pandemic and felt the anger especially online. The first nationwide representative study in this field shows that he is by no means the only scientist who is exposed to hostility and threats.

45 percent of the scientists surveyed reported having experienced hostility, insults or concrete threats. The results were collected by the German Centre for Higher Education

It is said that hostility occurs particularly when scientific results serve as the basis for socially and politically controversial decisions. “The anger over these political decisions or the feeling that one’s own human options for action are being limited can then also be reflected in attacks against researchers,” says study director Clemens Bl├╝mel. Examples: the corona pandemic, research on migration or climate change. Even within the scientific world there is hostility and the results are discredited.

Most of those surveyed reported that their competence was doubted, that research results were responded to inappropriately, or that the researchers were personally attacked. However, a minority also spoke of criminal threats, damage to property or even death threats.

Since July 2023, there has been a central, nationwide advisory center for researchers (Scicomm Support) that aims to support scientists in the event of specific hostilities. The study results should also be incorporated into the work of this advisory center. An important contact point, says Benedikt Fecher, managing director of Science in Dialogue: “Today, researchers are expected to actively participate in public discourse.” However, this openness makes one vulnerable. This is shown by examples like Drosten and many others.

As a medical graduate, Karl Lauterbach went on talk shows during the Corona period, explaining study results and political decisions. Today he is Federal Minister of Health. Even before that, he did not leave his house without personal protection. He shared the latest study results on X, formerly Twitter, and commented: “There’s a problem building here.”

Sources: German Center for Higher Education