A red telephone. The receiver is off the hook. It is an old-fashioned telephone with a cord.
(Photo: Miryam León / Unsplash)

Have you encountered threats, intimidation or aggression? From today, academics who feel unsafe can seek help by calling a special hotline or filing a report online.

Lees in het Nederlands

This new Safe Science (in Dutch) platform was launched by the universities of the Netherlands, in cooperation with the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), at a special presentation attended by Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf and the academics behind the initiative.

The platform was announced one year ago in response to a rise in threats against academics made by conspiracy theorists, radical groups and social media trolls. It is modelled on PersVeilig (in Dutch), an existing initiative to assist journalists facing similar risks.

  • Also read: How does it feel when you get caught in a social media storm as a scientist? Delta spoke to scientists Andy van den Dobbelsteen (climate), Niek Mouter (corona vaccines) and Thomas Frederikse (climate) about their experiences and tips.

Impact
“It is unacceptable for academics to encounter threats, intimidation and hate speak in their work”, says Pieter Duisenberg, President of Universities of the Netherlands. “These threats have a huge impact on our people and we regard them as an attack on academic freedom.”

The platform has been designed to ensure that academics receive the right help as soon as possible. They will be able to contact a 24/7 emergency hotline and file a report on the website, which is forwarded to their employer. “The employer then contacts the person who has made the report within one working day”, the announcement pledges.

Academics under threat are then put in touch with security specialists, HR staff, lawyers, communications officers or other experts who can offer support and assistance.

Police report
University governors have consistently expressed their support for their academic staff. Last year, they made it known that without exception they would report all instances of threatening behaviour, violence, stalking, burglary or theft to the police. In his inaugural public address as Education Minister, Robbert Dijkgraaf also highlighted the need to ensure the safety of academics.

  • Read here what TU Delft does when its researchers come under scrutiny on social media.

HOP, Bas Belleman
Translation: Taalcentrum-VU