Sign up

Free to Think: The Scholars At Risk monitoring project September 2020-August 2021

Researchers, journalists, policy-makers, and the general public are invited to submit incidents for the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) are reaching out to the scientific community to submit data for their 2021 report, to be released in November. SAR has been monitoring attacks on researchers and higher education since 2011 as part of its Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, which investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities.

SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project focuses on developing a greater understanding of the volume and nature of attacks on higher education communities in order to develop more effective protection responses.

The 2020 report analyzed 341 attacks on higher education communities in 58 countries between 1 September 2019 and 30 August 2020, with SAR describing how the COVID-19 crisis revealed new vulnerabilities within higher education, as universities switched to online working, resulting in an an increase in online disruption, harassment, and related attacks. Universities experienced unprecedented financial challenges during 2020, and state actors attacked scholars and students who challenged official government narratives about the causes of, and solutions to the crisis.


In most cases, initial identification and corroboration of incidents will come from secondary sources such as media stories and NGO reports. Where practical, researchers may attempt to collect primary source material also, including statements from victims, witnesses and/or perpetrators. The Monitoring Project aims to identify, assess and track incidents involving one or more of six defined types of conduct which may constitute violations of academic freedom and/or the human rights of members of higher education communities:

  • Killings/Violence/Disappearances
  • Wrongful Imprisonment
  • Wrongful Prosecution
  • Travel Restrictions
  • Loss of Position
  • Other Incidents

Researchers are asked to provide at least two independent sources to corroborate each incident reported on the monitoring project. These may include secondary sources such as local, national, and international media outlets. They may also include primary sources such as interviews with victims, witnesses, or bystanders, and court/government documents. More information on the methodology can be found here.

ISC members and the broader scientific community are invited to submit data to the project for the 2020/21 period preferably by 31 July 2021. Contact:

Photo by Ann-Sophie Qvarnström on Flickr

Skip to content