COVID-19 has led to challenges the world has not faced in over a century: over 55 million cases and over 1.3 million deaths; massive disruption of economies; state and local budgets in the United States at breaking point; and lack of contact with loved ones, teachers, colleagues and friends. And the pandemic has drawn more attention to the role of science in society. The development of vaccines, therapeutics and epidemiology are new topics of conversation in the public arena. In this issue of Trend, we therefore step back to explore public attitudes towards science and how science can inform policy.
In the months leading up to the pandemic, the Pew Research Center measured the level of confidence in science and scientists. The data revealed that large majorities around the world support government investments in science. But when asked if they trust scientists to do what’s right for the public, only 38% of Americans said “a lot”. So increasing public confidence in science is a major challenge.
Sudip Parikh, who heads the American Association for the Advancement of Science, writes that “a scientific enterprise that the public does not trust cannot properly …
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