The figure below comes from the 2016 NSF Science and Engineering Indicators, and it shows long-term trends in public trust in various US institutions. Clearly, there is no long-term trend in trust in science.
Here is the same sort of data for Europe (source here in PDF):
This data comes from Ipsos MORI, and while the graph won’t win any awards for visualization, it clearly shows that trust in science has increased in the EU, over at least the past decade. For more discussion see this article, titled, Trust in Science and Scientists in Europe is Not Eroding.
It is popular, I know, to complain that public trust in science has decreased and scientists are ignored. The evidence does not support such complaints.
I will follow up with a discussion of the expedient confusion of “impact” with political power. Would-be science advisors confuse the two routinely.
February 22, 2017 at 12:48 pm
So, assuming the figures are correct and support the notion that there is no lost trust, where could this meme then come from (and why)?
I can think of a couple:
– there is lost trust, but only for particular fields (see Medicine in the first graph)
– with the advance of internet and social media, criticism that was always there became more visible, with as a consquence that scientists are questioned more (in public) than used to be the case
– increased politization of science, and activist scientists becoming more aware or less accepting of existing criticism (there is evidence that the perception of scientists on how media reports on science differs from what actually happens in the media)
– increased politization of science, and media putting more emphasis on scientific controversies
– criticism on science focuses on a small but vocal subset of scientists, who actively and publicly exploit this criticism
February 23, 2017 at 7:28 pm
In many disciplines the prevailing model has been dumbed down to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the tax paying science consumer. Much of meteorology is, for example, plainly fictitious:
The ‘Missing Link’ of Meteorology’s Theory of Storms
James McGinn / Solving Tornadoes