Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this weekend, Dr Ralph Cicerone, President of the US National Academy of Sciences, argued that there has been a general deterioration of the public’s faith in science, in America and in other countries, over the course of the past three months. American opinion polls point to the public’s growing lack of trust in science and in scientists. Catalysed by the leakage of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and the incorporation of flawed data on the melting rates of Himalayan glaciers into a report from the Iintergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s, Dr Cicerone argued that public mistrust of science is now spreading beyond the science of climate change.
“I think the damage has spilled over to other kinds of science”, Dr Cicerone said at the conference on Saturday. I don’t think it’s fair, but we have to address our fundamentals in any case as we improve science. Let’s do it, and I hope we can set a new level of transparency and trust.” Dr Cicerone warned that continuing attacks on climate change science by sceptics would further damage public attitudes to science.
The ‘Thought for the Day’ piece on BBC Radio 4 this morning focused on public attitudes to science, calling for better funding for scientific research, leaving science and scientists less open to accusations of ‘collusion’ with industry and corporate interests in order to achieve funding for their work. Greater communication on the part of scientists was also highlighted as means to tackle public mistrust.