TORONTO — A new survey of 321 scientists who spoke publicly about COVID-19 found that 15 percent received death threats and 22 percent received threats of physical or sexual violence.

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survey conducted by the journal Nature, were sent to scientists around the world, including the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Taiwan and Brazil. Seventy-four percent of survey respondents are located in the US, UK and Germany, and five percent work in Canada.

Respondents could answer the survey anonymously, but some opted to include their names and emails.

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The survey also found that more than 25 percent of respondents said they “always” or “usually” receive negative comments or personal attacks after speaking about COVID-19. More than 40 percent of respondents said they experienced emotional or psychological distress as a result.

social media matters

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Several respondents reported using social media to discuss COVID-19 with the public. About 63 percent of the scientists reported using Twitter, 35 percent used LinkedIn and 28 percent used Facebook.

Some social media platforms were also places where researchers faced trolling or personal attacks. For example, among scientists who used Twitter to discuss COVID-19, 34 percent said they “usually” or “always” faced online abuse.

Of the respondents, 71 percent said they spoke to the media several times a month or more. Despite experiencing negative remarks or personal attacks, 85 percent of scientists said their experiences with the media were “always” or “mostly” positive.

Nature Note that its survey results are not a random sample, as they only represent the experiences of scientists who chose to respond. Although Nature The survey was based on a small, informal survey conducted in Australia.

The Australian Survey surveyed Australian researchers and scientists. Six out of 50 Australian respondents reported receiving death threats (12 per cent) and six reported receiving threats of sexual or physical violence.