Reputations are crucially important to scientists, so it is valuable to examine processes by which reputations come under attack. One potent method is a degradation ritual, an event or process that stigmatises the target and often results in feelings of shame and humiliation. Anthropologists and other scholars from a range of disciplines have examined degradation rituals and ceremonies, but their use in science has received little attention, perhaps because of the focus on the rational features of the issues involved. Degradation rituals can be described in terms of various features, including degrading agents, contexts, means and severity. Attacks on scientists in a variety of fields can be usefully interpreted through the lens of degradation rituals.