Security measures for 59 scientists in 2023

Last year, security measures were taken for 59 scientists because of the hate and threats they receive. Whether this number includes TU employees is unknown.

Scientists' safety is under pressure (Photo: Pxhere)

45 university employees received one-time security measures last year, while 14 others required structural security. This is stated in the first ‘Monitor external harassment, hatred and threats against scientists’, published on Monday and compiled by university association UNL and research firm Technopolis. The document does not name scientists or universities.

Interventions range from extra security guards on campus to taking contact details offline. For example, institutions take a threatened researcher’s contact details offline, introduce pass checks for certain buildings, move the employee to another location or filter out all hate and threats from the mail. They also help employees file reports. Furthermore, extra security guards are sometimes needed on campus or at public meetings.


The safety of scientists has been under a magnifying glass since the violent threats to virologists during the pandemic. Also, extremists often target scientists who speak out in the media about migration or climate change. Criticism of political Islam is also not without danger.

The universities and institutes see a ‘growth in activism in society’ and this affects scientific education and research. Security officials also signal a ‘norm blurring’: extreme reactions are increasingly normal.

As a result, some researchers are ‘more reluctant to communicate publicly about their work’, according to the report. According to the institutions, women and young researchers in particular face hatred, threats and harassment.

Bas Belleman, HOP; Kim Bakker

Report and help
The safety of scientists has been under pressure for some time. TU Delft researchers also have to deal with hateful tweets on social media, a 2021 Delta roundup revealed. The university’s communications department can help with ‘advice and assistance’, we wrote then.

A year later, the universities, the KNAW and the NWO launched a special website: This brings endangered scientists faster to that ‘advice and assistance’. In other words, in contact with people within their institution who can help them.

Through December 2023, several dozen scientists have sought help through this website, according to the monitor released on Monday. The universities estimate that that is only the “tip of the iceberg.”

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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