Bullying, harassment, and discrimination of musculoskeletal researchers and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: an international study

John T. Martin, Dimitrios Asimakopoulos, Alexander L. Hornung, Sheila J. Toro, Christine L. Le Maitre, Nadeen O. Chahine, Aaron J. Fields, Rahul Gawri, Morgan B. Giers, Lachlan J. Smith, Simon Y. Tang, Uruj Zehra, Lisbet Haglund, Dino Samartzis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Bullying, harassment, and discrimination (BHD) are prevalent in academic, scientific, and clinical departments, particularly orthopedic surgery, and can have lasting effects on victims. As it is unclear how BHD affects musculoskeletal (MSK) researchers, the following study assessed BHD in the MSK research community and whether the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused hardships in other industries, had an impact. Methods: A web-based anonymous survey was developed in English by ORS Spine Section members to assess the impact of COVID-19 on MSK researchers in North America, Europe, and Asia, which included questions to evaluate the personal experience of researchers regarding BHD. Results: 116 MSK researchers completed the survey. Of respondents, 34.5% (n = 40) focused on spine, 30.2% (n = 35) had multiple areas of interest, and 35.3% (n = 41) represented other areas of MSK research. BHD was observed by 26.7% (n = 31) of respondents and personally experienced by 11.2% (n = 13), with mid-career faculty both observing and experiencing the most BHD. Most who experienced BHD (53.8%, n = 7) experienced multiple forms. 32.8% (n = 38) of respondents were not able to speak out about BHD without fear of repercussions, with 13.8% (n = 16) being unsure about this. Of those who observed BHD, 54.8% (n = 17) noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had no impact on their observations. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study to address the prevalence and determinants of BHD among MSK researchers. MSK researchers experienced and observed BHD, while many were not comfortable reporting and discussing violations to their institution. The COVID-19 pandemic had mixed-effects on BHD. Awareness and proactive policy changes may be warranted to reduce/eliminate the occurrence of BHD in this community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1861-1875
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Spine Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Bullying, harassment, discrimination
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion
  • Ethics
  • Researcher
  • Scientist


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