Highlights

  • The pandemic has turned many outspoken scientists into celebrities
  • 22% of scientists report facing threats of sexual or physical violence for discussing Covid-19
  • 2/3rd report a negative experience after appearing in the media

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‘Eat a bat & die’: scientists face abuse and threats for discussing Covid-19

From speaking on news channels to large social media followings, the pandemic prominence has come at a price for scientists in the public eye.

Leading the guidance and research about the novel coronavirus, the pandemic created celebrities out of scientists and health experts.

From speaking on news channels to active updates on social media, this newfound prominence has come at a price for many scientists in the public eye. A survey of 321 scientists by Nature magazine found that 22 per cent of experts have received threats of physical and sexual violence as a result of publicly talking about Covid-19.

SEE MORE India lost 800 doctors to Covid during second wave: IMA

Nearly 15% said they have received death threats and a whopping two-thirds revealed they had had a negative experience after appearing in the media. From threats like ‘I hope you die’ or ‘I would shoot you’ to racist remarks like ‘go back to where you came from’ and ‘eat a bat and die,’ a massive amount of abuse is directed at scientists for contributing to the pandemic response.

Some of these attacks have also made headlines, including Indian doctors who have been spat at and chased away from their homes as well as UK’s chief medical advisor who was assaulted in a park.

For researchers who receive online abuse, Nature suggests individual coping strategies like trying to ignore the comments; filtering e-mails and blocking online trolls; or, for abuse on a specific social media platform, deleting or temporarily deactivating accounts might help.

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