Summary

Background

It is now well-documented that academic bullying, mainly driven by power differences, affects all disciplines and academic people with various positions (from students to senior faculty) of all levels of experience. Our aim is to probe whether academic bullying, in its specific forms, manifests differently across disciplines.

Methods

We analyzed discipline-specific data from our global survey on academic bullying, which was collected since November 2019. The survey was a cross-sectional global study that was administered via Qualtrics. It reflects responses from 2122 individuals whose participation was solicited through various means including advertisements in Science and Nature magazines and the American Chemical Society.

Findings

The main finding is that academic bullying does not affect all scientific fields equally. Our cross-sectional global survey of targets of academic bullying indicates that bullying behavior depended strongly on the scientific discipline. Specifically, our comparison of the three major scientific categories, including Applied Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences revealed significant differences (p < 0.05) in four (out of ten) of the contextual behaviors. Further comparison of the bullying behavior among specific disciplines (e.g., Chemistry, Engineering, Life Sciences, Neuroscience, and Social Sciences) revealed significant differences (p < 0.05) in five of the contextual behaviors. We also noticed that, among the top five disciplines analyzed, respondents in Engineering experienced the highest rate of bullying behaviors.

Interpretation

The variation in contextual bullying behavior across disciplines suggests the need for specific and nuanced training, monitoring, and actions by stakeholders in addressing academic bullying in a context-specific manner.

Funding

None.

Method

We analyzed responses from participants reporting what we called “contextual behaviors” (N = 959) according to the participants’ disciplines (based on the following 14 branches of science, which are provided in the survey: Biotech/Pharma, Cancer Research, Chemistry, Clinical Science, Earth Science, Engineering, Genetics, Immunology, Life Science, Maths/Computational, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Physical Science, and Social Sciences). The contextual behavior checklist was recently developed to enable scientists to better understand specific abuses unique to the lab and educational or scientific institutions.

STEM the bullying: an empirical investigation of abusive supervision in academic science.