Trust in Science Is Not the Problem

Many members of the science and science policy communities have grown increasingly concerned lately about what they see as a decline in the general public’s trust in science. Frequently cited examples include the common failure to follow COVID public health guidelines or to take the issue of climate change seriously enough to adopt significant changes in individual behavior or support changes in public policy. Discussion then often shifts to debates about how to restore that trust. The basic premise, however, is wrong. There is no real evidence that the public has lost trust in science per se.

On the contrary, most surveys show that most of the public does trust, has confidence in, and respects science and scientists. Therefore, problems around expert advice and the public are best considered one societal issue at a time and should be viewed in terms of how scientific advances intersect with such variables as individuals’ values, economic and other interests, or politics. most effective remedial strategies typically start from that perspective.