ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In a time of climate change denial and vaccine resistance, scientists worry they are losing the public trust. But a new survey finds just the opposite. Public trust of scientists is growing. It's on par with trust of the military and far above trust of clergy, politicians and journalists. NPR's Richard Harris reports.
RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: The survey by the Pew Research Center finds 86% of those surveyed said they have a fair amount or a great deal of faith that scientists act in our best interests. And that's been trending higher. But Cary Funk, director of science and society research at the Pew Research Center says the picture isn't entirely rosy.
CARY FUNK: It tends to be kind of a soft support.
HARRIS: The public doesn't entirely trust scientists to do their jobs well or to act in the public interest, she found.
FUNK: When you look at issues of scientific integrity, we see widespread skepticism.
HARRIS: The public realizes that motivations in science aren't necessarily pure. Americans are more likely to trust practitioners we come face-to-face with like doctors and dieticians and less likely to trust researchers such as nutrition scientists - you know, those people who seem to generate conflicting advice from one week to the next.
FUNK: One thing I think is striking is that when we ask people what factors move their trust, when they hear about scientific research where the data is openly available, they say that increases their trust. And a majority on the flip side say when they hear about industry funded research, that tends to decrease their trust.
HARRIS: These issues are by no means unique to science. In fact, John Besley, who studies public opinion about science at Michigan State University, says there's a trend in the United States toward lower public trust in general.
JOHN BESLEY: Science has actually stayed pretty stable as overall trust in other people has gone down. So it would be interesting to know a little bit more about how much these responses are really about scientists, versus how much are sort of a general distrust of everybody, sort of a general cynicism.
HARRIS: And he says considering that skeptical trend, scientists come out looking even better.
Richard Harris, NPR News.
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