Webinar: Science communication and trust in science, scientists, and science institutions

Webinar date: 9 December 2021

Our last PCST Webinar for 2021 focused on science communication and trust. Our panelists discuss how trust and mistrust is constructed in science, by scientists, with scientific institutions and by the public.  Under the moderation of PCST President, Jenni Metcalfe, the panellists examine the theory and practice of science communication within this context.

Dr Fabien Medvecky, University of Otago, New Zealand
Resolving the paradox of trust in science in a post-truth age
“Trust the science” goes the refrain. But here’s the catch: what is “the science”? Science is far from a homogenous mass, and this leads us into the paradox of trust in science in a post-truth age. On one hand, it seems we have a crisis of trust in science (anti-science, post-truth, alternative facts, etc) and on the other hand we know that trust in science is just as strong as ever. I want to think about how we might resolve that paradox and what that tells us about trust in science and our role in that discussion as science communicators.

Dr Friederike Hendriks, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany
Communicating scientists and what makes people trust them?
Across the globe, scientists (at universities) are the most trustworthy profession, as large national and international surveys have often confirmed; and scientists have increasingly become public figures (as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown again). Thus, scientists can be perceived as ambassadors for trust in science. What makes people perceive communicating scientists as trustworthy, and how does this predict trust in science on a more general level? I will argue that science has an epistemic and a social function in society, and that making this difference helps untangling the concept of trust, but also allows implications for training scientists to communicate.

Dr Marta Entradas, London School of Economics and Political Sciences, UK/Portugal
Institutions and trust in science
Research universities are key actors in public communication and in building public trust/distrust in science. How are research universities and institutes communicating with the public in an increased misinformation ‘world’? What challenges do institutions face and what consequences are there for public trust in science? I will discuss implications of ongoing transformations in the university communication system and strategic communication for public communication and trust.

Dr Julia Tagüeña, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
What makes an intelligent and well-intentioned person not trust scientific facts?
People who do not trust science, especially related to health issues, are not necessarily acting because of a lack of information or a conflict of interests. Clever people can make decisions about health and still ignore scientific facts, even when they are life or death decisions. Studies about the psychology of denying science have been investigated and they take us to the homo sapiens original reactions for survival. Our species have always wanted absolute answers and critical thinking about hypotheses that can be proved wrong is not reassuring enough. Education and science communication has a big challenge in teaching scientific reasoning.