National platform for threatened scientists launched
Getting involved in the public debate as a scientist provides valuable interaction, but sometimes leads to intimidation, threats and hate reactions. That is why the Universities of the Netherlands (UNL), NWO and KNAW have launched the platform WetenschapVeilig (SafeScience). Via this website, scientists who feel threatened can get help 24 hours a day. UU employees who contact it will be connected to Utrecht University's contact point for intimidation. The aim of the national and UU hotline is to provide scientists with the best possible support, and to exchange knowledge and experience on how to deal with such situations.
Through dialogue with society, we as a university contribute in a crucial way to a functional society. That is why Utrecht University encourages scientists to participate in the public debate via the (social) media. This offers opportunities to reach a wide audience and engage with that audience. But besides opportunities, there are also risks. For instance, as a scientist entering the debate you have to be prepared for sometimes fierce reactions.
Protecting and supporting academics
Utrecht University wants to help academics engage in dialogue in a responsible way, and to support and protect them in unpleasant situations. That is why last year, rector magnificus Henk Kummeling called for action. This resulted in the contact point online intimidation (social) media (intranet) and the series ‘Scholars in the public arena' (intranet). In that series, academics talk about the various aspects of being visible in the public debate, including harassment.
"It is terrible that academics find themselves in a position where they have to think twice before sharing the results of their research," Kummeling. "That is why, since October 2021, we have had a team within Utrecht University with security specialists, HR staff, people from legal affairs and communication officers to assist academics in cases of threats and intimidation. With the contact point, we hope to make it easier for threatened scientists to find help."
Contact point online intimidation (social) media
In case of life-threatening or urgent situations on campus, call: 030-253 4444. You will then get a colleague from the security department on the phone who will assess what actions are needed. For situations that are not life-threatening in nature, get in touch with the contact point via: 030-253 2533 or email@example.com. A colleague from the contact point will listen to your story and see how we can help you. For example: pressing charges, taking the contact details on your profile page offline temporarily, reporting a post on social media or taking safety measures. It is not possible to take such concrete actions in every case. However, we always offer moral support. In addition, reports help us better understand the issues so that we can further improve our support.
The national platform SafeScience launched on Monday 7 November will connect UU staff to the Utrecht team. Therefore it’s an additional entry point to our own contact point. If you are already in contact with the UU contact point, there is no need to also contact the national platform. The ScienceSafe website also offers advice for scientists, employees and employers. The universities and participating institutions monitor the reports received through ScienceSafe and will also intensify their cooperation and share their expertise on this topic.
If you want to talk these topics, you can participate in the series Scholars in the Public Arena. On Wednesday 30 November from 15:00 to 17:00, we will discuss the opportunities and risks of media (in Dutch). In 2023 the series will be offered in English. To be informed about the dates, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions and answers
The contact point intimidation (social) media and platform ScienceSafe are not meant for reports about unsafe work or study situations involving other UU employees. See our selection guide to determine who to report to in such a case.