Over his long and distinguished career, Dr. Peter Hotez has been a highly influential figure in the field of biomedicine, particularly in the development of vaccines for tropical diseases. However, he has also faced significant backlash throughout his career, with attacks on his work and even threats against him.
Hotez is not alone in facing such attacks – another prominent scientist who has faced similar vitriol is Dr. Michael Mann, a climate researcher and effective communicator about the impact of climate change. In 2012, Mann was compared to a child sex abuser by a conservative policy analyst, who accused him of molesting and torturing data instead of children. Mann sued both the analyst and another individual who called his work fraudulent, and after 12 years of legal battle, he won his case.
The court victory for Mann is important because it sends a signal that while it’s okay to disagree with the science and express skepticism, it crosses a line when you’re attacking scientists and putting them in danger. The attacks on climate science have now converged with attacks on biomedicine, according to Hotez, with the same forces behind them and escalating to threats against scientists. Both Hotez and Mann have been stalked regularly, received threats online and phone calls to their offices, and faced physical confrontations. It’s important for society to recognize that these attacks are unacceptable and that we must work together to promote scientific integrity and protect scientists from harm.