Intimidation and voice of research scientists

Summary

The project aims to investigate intimidation towards scientists as a result of their scientific work, and actions that may and increase scientists’ voice.

In some fields (e.g., climate science, genetically modified foods, animal testing) organized attacks on scientists and scientific organizations are increasing in frequency and severity.

However we do not know how scientists respond or what sources of support are available to them, or how effective if any mechanisms are.

Aims

The project aims to:

  • identify factors that influence intimidation,
  • examine severity and outcomes,
  • examine support available to scientists and identify an develop viable organisational and policy responses to reduce the personal and social costs arising from intimidation,
  • identify and develop viable organisational and policy responses to reduce the personal and social costs arising from intimidation and increase scientists’ voice,
  • improve our understanding of the relationships between scientists, intimidation, society and scientific progress.

The project has been Funded by the Australian Research Council (Discovery grant DP190102324). A pilot phase was completed in 2019 and an international survey is underway in 2020. That phase involves an international online survey of scientists, focusing on those from 3 fields with different risks of the likelihood of intimidation; climate science (high risk, with attacks from the right), plant, soil, and animal science (high risk with attacks from the left) and astronomy (low risk). The participant pool will be identified by conducting keyword searches of publication databases (especially Web of Science).

A subsequent phase will involve follow up interviews (either face to face, via electronic means or in focus groups). This will focus on understanding the critical moments in the dynamic experience of a key incident, will address what support has and has not assisted with this experience and identify from participants their views on recommendations for change in policy and practice.

Reporting of all findings will be done in such a way as to ensure individuals cannot be identified, unless they explicitly wish to be.

There will also be a benchmarking analysis of survey participants and non-respondents regarding online presence, continuing publication and citation rates.

Separately, a PhD student, funded by the project, will study the behaviour of relevant interest groups in social media and other online media, and the impact upon scientists.

Research Team

The team is multi-disciplinary.

Chief Investigator Professor David Peetz is Professor of Employment Relations at Griffith University, and has research expertise in employee voice, employment relations, ‘scientists’ as academics, harassment/intimidation of employees in the workplace as well as large scale university surveys.

Chief Investigator Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor of Science at Griffith University, contributes an inside perspective is a scientific communicator with a background examining the suppression of critical views in science.

Day-to-day project work will be undertaken by two research fellows who will conduct the searches for articles to identify the eligible participant pool.

Senior research fellow (Dr Georgina Murray), brings expertise in the professions, networks and political economy, and in conducting qualitative research, and will carry out the in-depth interviews and with Lowe analyse the qualitative findings.

Research fellow, Dr Carolyn Troup has practical survey administration experience and will carry out the logistics of developing the email database and the online survey administration. She brings expertise in stress and wellbeing and will assist the chief investigators to develop this in the survey instrument.

International Advisory Board

There is also an International Advisory Board associated with the project. Members include Andrew Allen (Royal Society), Christopher Wright (University of Sydney), Edward Collins (Influence Map), Elizabeth Stulberg (Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies), Ian Chubb (Australian National University), John Cook (George Mason University), Kei Koizumi (science consultant), Michael Halpern (Union of Concerned Scientists), Michael Mann (Penn State University), Peter Gluckman (International Science Council), Rebecca Ford (Griffith University) and Stefanie Ruel (Concordia University).

Research Activities

    • Peetz, D. & Murray, G. 'Decoupling capital and climate change: what motivates finance capital climate-interested investors?' (ed) Jeb Sprague Global Capitalism in Asia and Oceania, Singapore, Republic of Singapore and London, UK. London, Routledge, 2015.
    • Peetz, D & Murray, G. ‘Class, Attitudes and the Climate Crisis’, in B Griffen-Foley & S R Scalmer (eds), Public Opinion, Campaign Politics and Media Audiences: New Perspectives on Australian Politics, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, (2017).
    • Peetz, D. & Murray, G. 'The Financialization of corporate ownership and implications for the potential for climate action', (eds) Suzanne Young & Stephen Gates Institutional Investors and Corporate Responses: Actors, Power and Responses, Emerald, London, pp. 99-125, 2013.
    • Murray, G, & Peetz, D. ‘Financial Markets, Climate Change, and Paradoxes of Coordination and Intervention’, Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, 15, 2016, 455-479.
    • Peetz, D. & Murray, G. 'The government is swimming against the tide on Westpac's Adani decision', The Conversation, May 3, 2017, Reads 5578, 12th Feb., 2018.
    • Peetz, D. & Murray, G. 'Class and climate: how financial warfare affects the air', The Conversation, 14th March, 1. 2014, Reads  3950 12th Feb., 2018.
    • Murray, G. & Peetz, D. How important is finance capital in leading action on climate change? Wellbeing and Leadership Conference, Ambleside, University of Cambria, Windemere, Lake District, UK, July 24th, 2015.

More information can be obtained by contacting the project leader David Peetz: d.peetz@griffith.edu.au or  scistudy@griffith.edu.au