Trust in Science is Not the Problem

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The COVID-19 pandemic appears to show that significant portions of the American public are distrustful of science. But this idea just doesn’t fit the current survey data about trust in science and scientists. What we learn from a deeper dive into that data is that “important decisions… are rarely, if ever, made solely on the basis of science, but are based on both facts and values, or on facts and personal experience. Moreover, long-held beliefs or core values often win out over scientific evidence when policy decisions are being made.”

If you want to better understand the tensions between science and values or personal experience, this article is a good place to start. It also provides some helpful strategies for effective engagement around areas of public disagreement. For example, “All parties must be willing to listen and even compromise. Many scientists are accustomed to teaching nonscientists, rather than listening to their views and perspectives. Genuine dialogue, where both sides listen respectfully and are willing to work on problems collectively, is much more effective than simply lecturing to people.”

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