After reading the "All Meaning Above" collection, I will no longer subconsciously assume that colleagues are skeptical

Falling in faith in science? fake news. I just got up

Ionica Smiths

“It’s ridiculous how much misinformation is about misinformation.” So said sociologist Massimiano Bucci a few weeks ago in Brussels at a conference on the future of scientific communication. Since then, I think about lecturing him a few times a week.

For example, when a fellow researcher gave an extended speech this week about the relationship between misinformation on social media, the threats posed by Marion Copmans and declining trust in science.

Yes, I agreed: There is all sorts of misinformation on social media and threats to Marion Copmans and other scientists are unacceptable. But … confidence in science is not waning at all. In fact, it has actually increased in recent years.

The Rathenau Institute was measuring The confidence that the Dutch have in sciencen. A representative sample of citizens indicates how much they trust the various institutions on a scale from 1 (no trust at all) to 10 (complete trust). The flag received a score of 7.4 in 2021 – the highest score among the institutions examined. For example, newspapers scored 6.1, and “big companies” scored the worst with 5.5.

7.4 For the record, this is more than enough and is up from 7 to 7.1 as confidence in the measurements has fluctuated since 2012.

When I mentioned it to my colleague, he replied that he doesn’t know, but the group of people who don’t trust science is growing. This also doesn’t line up with the numbers: in the last measurement, 90 percent of the population gave their confidence in science at least 6, and this percentage was also higher than in previous years.

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How do colleagues not know these numbers? This is the topic of Massimiano Pucci’s lecture in Brussels. His nickname was: ‘Suspicious and ill-informed? Ideological stereotypes of citizens in science communication’. Bucci initially gave the spoiler that the answer to his question was of course ‘No’. Citizens in general are not suspicious and uninformed. The results of the high and growing trust in science can be seen in All over Europe.

However, scientists and policy makers love to use these kinds of stereotypes. Often they combine this with the outdated idea that the solution to all existing problems lies in the transmission of “facts”. Bocchi argued that this is appropriate for scientific and political institutions, as it allows them to transfer responsibility to citizens, (social) media and education. They can continue to engage in science communication in a gentle, paternalistic way and they don’t have to improve anything.

This is a shame. Because despite the high confidence, only 20 percent of Dutch people think scientists spend enough time meeting people like them to explain their work. You might almost complain that scientists are mistrustful and misinformed about society, but don’t let me fall into easy stereotypes.

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