As a year for science, 2002 was marked by many wonderful accomplishments, and our inaugural listing of the Scientific American 50, beginning on page 43, celebrates dozens. But much of the public may also remember the year for blemishes on the scientific record: prominently among them, the fraud of a physicist working on semiconductor technology, the withdrawn discovery of element 118, a reversal on the wisdom of hormone replacement therapy for many postmenopausal women, and conflicting recommendations about dietary fat.
Flip-flops, scandals and overblown headlines can erode confidence in science's authority as a source of truthful information. Society, as much as research, suffers when citizens and policymakers start discounting the good science along with the bad.
This article was originally published with the title In Science We Trust.