A new Perspective piece by Susan Fiske and Cydney Dupree in PNAS examines how the the public views scientists in comparison with other professions. Phys.org has a news article about the report with some great quotes from Fiske, the author. The authors find that ‘… while Americans view scientists as competent, they are not entirely trusted. This may be because they are not perceived to be friendly or warm. In particular, Americans seem wary of researchers seeking grant funding and do not trust scientists pushing persuasive agendas. Instead, the public leans toward impartiality.’
The PNAS article specifically uses climate science as an example:
This Perspectives article begins with climate science as an example of potential misunderstanding between scientists and their audience, and then examines the science of communicator credibility more generally, showing that trust is a critical factor.
The article concludes that science communication must involve more than trying to sway the audience with expertise and competence.
Science communication, like other communication, needs to convey communicator warmth/trustworthiness as well as competence/expertise, to be credible.
Our illustrative data are limited by not being a representative sample. Nevertheless, they suggest that scientists may have the respect, but not necessarily the trust of the public. This gap can be filled, we suggest, by showing concern for humanity and the environment. Rather than persuading, we and our audiences are better served by discussing, teaching, and sharing information, to convey trustworthy intentions.
Previous CauseScience posts have mentioned that the way science is communicated is extremely important in the view the public has of that science. Including a post on a History Lesson on communicating science and a post on science and society.