ScienceGuide examines: freedom and security of researchers in public debate

ScienceGuide examines: freedom and security of researchers in public debate

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June 9, 2021 | To what extent do Dutch researchers feel free to participate in the public debate based on their experience? ScienceGuide invites researchers to participate in a comprehensive study of the obstacles they encounter when they wish to participate in the public debate. We invite them to complete our survey and share their experiences.

Photo: Craig Center, Flickr.

Researchers working in Dutch universities, schools and research institutes are encouraged to share their knowledge widely under the guise of social recognition and influence. An important part of this communication is public discussion. Scholars can make an important contribution to social discussions through mass media, social media and public meetings by sharing relevant knowledge.

However, their access to public debate can become more difficult if they receive or fear frightening reactions to their contributions, or if they are not given the freedom and support of their own institutions to speak out in the social and political debates based on their research. But how many people consider this important, in what situations and with what consequences?

Who dares?

Recently, it has become increasingly clear that participation in public debate can lead to negative reactions, intimidation and even threats to scientists. Extreme examples of intimidation of scholars interfering with public debate have received significant media attention. As a result of this harassment, the Cabinet will soon introduce special legislation to criminalize intimidation through the distribution of private data.

There are concerns that harassment has negative consequences not only for victims, but for academia as a whole and the role of science in society. For example, KNAW President Ineke Sluiter recently warned in an interview with ScienceGuide about impoverishing public debate if participating in that debate leads to frightening reactions from scientists.

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Feedback from colleagues and supervisors

Reports of scholarly harassment often point to the importance of support from the work environment when a researcher engages in public debate. Colleagues, managers, and other parties within their organization can encourage participation in the discussion, but negative feedback from the professional environment can discourage or complicate such participation. Discussing controversial topics openly or seeking difficult discussions can be considered desirable or undesirable for a number of reasons. To what extent does feedback from within your institution or academic world play a role in choosing to participate in the public debate?

ScienceGuide investigates the ways and to what extent researchers’ freedom and security are restricted in public debate. We want to paint a general picture of the Dutch situation, but we also want to know if researchers from different backgrounds and experiences have different experiences.

Are these obstacles greater for some scholars than others? Is it related to gender identity or immigrant background? Is participation in public debate less safe for researchers dealing with politically or socially controversial topics? Do researchers feel free to speak the way they see fit based on their research? What role do people play within their organization?

Who is this poll for?

We invite everyone who has a research position at a Dutch university, university of applied sciences or research institution to apply for this purpose Investigation to fill up. We also explicitly invite researchers who have not (yet) participated in the public debate but wish to do so in the future to complete the questionnaire.

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Privacy and data use

We understand that through this survey we are asking you for sensitive information. Therefore, we treat this data in a safe and ethical manner. This survey is journalistic research on the various obstacles that researchers in the Netherlands face when they wish to participate in the public debate. You can read more about how we handle your data here.

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