According to new research, more than a fifth of scientists who speak publicly about Covid-19 in the media have been subjected to physical and sexually violent threats.
Out of 321 experts surveyed by the journal NatureSome 15 percent said they had experienced death threats, while more than a quarter of respondents said they “always” or “usually” received comments from trolls or personal attacks after speaking about Covid.
The scientists said the abuse made his job “extraordinarily challenging” and had an impact on his mental health. More than 40 percent said they experienced emotional or psychological distress as a result of the bullying.
The respondents who most often reported being trolled online or receiving personal attacks were also most likely to say that their experiences greatly influenced their willingness to talk to the media in the future.
Some said they were hesitant to speak about certain topics because they saw the kind of abuse others had to face.
Chloe Orkin, Professor of HIV Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said the survey results “show that the highly charged and polarized anti-science ideas around COVID-19, combined with the relative anonymity of social media, have provided an ideal breeding ground.” . for online abuse”.
Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said he believes “the intensity of such harassment has increased significantly in the pandemic, with more organized and more organized and unintelligible comments on social media than just mindless comments.” Including being terrifying.
“At this point in the UK, anti-vaccination activists are also harassing children out of school and threatening teachers and staff who vaccinate teens,” he said.
NatureThe survey was distributed to scientists in the UK, Germany, US, Canada, Taiwan, New Zealand and Brazil, who have been cited prominently in the media during the pandemic. Nearly three-quarters of all respondents were from the UK, Germany or the US.
Some 22 percent said they had received threats that were physically or sexually violent in nature.
Susan Mitchie, Professor of Health Psychology at University College London, said the results “closely match those of me and several female colleagues in the UK who have been prominent in talking to the media.
“Online abuse occurs most acutely after media engagements, and especially those that address restrictions on social distancing, wearing facemasks or vaccinations. These can be upsetting, especially when experiencing abuse for the first time.”
She said the abuse didn’t stop “many” of her female colleagues from continuing to talk to the media about Covid. “They are well established in their careers and very committed to communicating scientific understanding,” said Prof.
However, he expressed concern over how the abuse could discourage early career scientists, especially young women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, from engaging with the public through the media.
Melinda Mills, professor of sociology at the University of Oxford, said the “recognition” of abuse was “a step in the right direction”.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /