An emergency helpline and online resource is now available to researchers in the Netherlands.
Willemijn Lamet is a criminologist and psychologist who advises on security policy at Universities of the Netherlands (UNL), an association that represents 14 Dutch universities. Here, she explains the rationale behind SafeScience, an online platform that supports scientists who face threats or intimidation.
How did SafeScience come about and what was your role in it?
This excellent move in the Netherlands, funding bodies and institutions in other jurisdictions should emulate. The Dutch helpline recognises the researchers who are trolled endure mental suffering and often well-founded safety concerns. Providing the helpline also recognises that important research is not conducted if researchers worry that they will be targetted by trolls.
It developed in two stages. Initially, we wanted to share best practice in dealing with online and other forms of threats and harassment, so we developed guidelines for all 14 universities to follow. These were launched in October 2021 and were intended to help not only the researchers, but also the employers, to deal with what was becoming a daily practice.
The actual website, known in the Netherlands as WetenschapVeilig, was launched in November 2022, with an emergency number to call. As far as I know, it’s the first national website of its kind. It’s open to all scientists and researchers employed at the 14 Dutch universities and institutes affiliated with the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences or the Dutch Research Council. We learnt a lot from a similar hotline, PressSafe, that was launched for journalists in 2020, also in the Netherlands.