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Power abuse and anonymous accusations in academia – Perspectives …

Environments with steep hierarchies, such as the German academic system, manifest various power differentials and dependencies. These occur mainly between people with established careers at the top of the hierarchy, such as professors or research group leaders, and doctoral researchers (DRs), starting their academic careers near the bottom. Germany has recently seen a number of publicly discussed cases in which academic leaders have been reprimanded, due to accusations of abusive behaviour – sometimes from accusers not publicly known.

This anonymity is now being critically discussed. In this paper, we add the perspective of DRs to the discussion. Based on the review of several recent surveys, we argue that the position of DRs remains vulnerable and that anonymity is very important to enable less established scientists to voice their concerns without fear of repercussions. Furthermore, we suggest concrete changes to the academic system to prevent abusive behaviour and to establish trusted and independent resolution procedures.


J. Lasser L. Bultema, A. Jahn, M. Löffler, V. Minneker, C. van Scherpenberg, Power abuse and anonymous accusations in academia – Perspectives from early career researchers and recommendations for improvement, Beiträge zur Hochschulforschung, 43. Jahrgang (1–2) (2021) 48–61



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