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Science, Engineering, and Technology

The Public Face of Science: an Examination of Current Data on Public Attitudes Toward Science

The Academy is currently conducting a study on public attitudes toward science and how the public encounters science in their daily lives. A forthcoming publication will draw on existing research and public opinion surveys to establish a baseline for identifying gaps in the current understanding of these issues. In advance of the publication, the Academy’s Data Forum will preview these data over the course of the next several months.

This study is part of the Public Face of Science initiative, a three-year project that the Academy launched in March 2016 to address various aspects of the complex and evolving relationship between scientists and the public. The Academy is grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation for supporting the Public Face of Science project.

January 24, 2017

Public Confidence in Science

posted By
Keerthi ShettyKeerthi Shetty is a Hellman Fellow in Science, Engineering, and Technology Policy at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Published here is a portrait of the current level of public trust in institutions and scientific research. Whether expressed as a conviction that the benefits of scientific research outweigh any harmful results, optimism about the potential to improve life, viewing scientists with having a nonpolitical bias, or confidence in scientists to act in the best interest of the public, science continues to score highly in the public mind. Although there is a difference between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans who have a “great deal” of confidence in scientists to act in the best interests of the public, it is still notable that a majority of conservatives express confidence in scientists. Additionally, 67% of U.S adults view scientists as neither politically liberal nor conservative. Lastly, data presented in the National Science Board’s Science & Engineering Indicators 2016 (not shown; click for graph and table) show that the percentage of the public expressing a “great deal” of confidence in the scientific community remained steady from 1973 to 2014 while trust in other institutions, such as government, television, and the press, declined markedly.


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