1 in 5 Australian COVID-19 scientists targeted for abuse, survey finds

SYDNEY, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) – A survey unveiled Thursday by the Australian Science Media Center (AusSMC) of 50 Australian scientists found that more than one in five had received some level of abuse or threats after being appeared in the media to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic. .

“Scientists are facing pandemic levels of abuse just to try and help us all understand COVID-19,” said Lyndal Byford, director of news and partnerships at AusSMC.

AusSMC compared these results with international data, in collaboration with the journal Nature, and found that the phenomenon was true for scientists around the world.

Fifteen percent of the 321 international scientists surveyed said they had received death threats after facing the media, and 22 percent said they had received threats of physical or sexual violence.

Byford said if the unpleasant trend continues, many scientists and experts, who have helped us guide and understand the pandemic, might think twice before speaking to the media.

“If the pundits take Naomi Osaka’s understandable approach and stop talking to the media, we’ll all be worse off,” Byford said.

About 40% of Australian scientists who responded and 60% of international scientists said trolling and personal attacks impacted their willingness to speak to the media in the future.

Professor Dominic Dwyer, director of NSW Health Pathology at Westmead Hospital and a member of the WHO expert team traveling to China on a mission to research the origins of COVID-19, said that scientists should be able to tell the general public about the virus without fear of being the target of the attack.

“We know that information on the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is still incomplete, but these gaps should not be used to support a political position, encourage the game of blame or criticize others, especially behind the anonymity of people. social media, ”he said. noted.

“It should be about how to move forward collaboratively to better answer questions.”

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