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See Inside October 2010

In Science We Trust: Poll Results on How You Feel about Science

Our Web survey of readers suggests that the scientifically literate public still trusts its experts—with some important caveats



Arno Ghelfi

Scientists have had a rough year. The leaked “Climategate” e-mails painted researchers as censorious. The mild H1N1 flu out­break led to charges that health officials exaggerated the danger to help Big Pharma sell more drugs. And Harvard University in­vestigators found shocking holes in a star professor’s data. As policy decisions on climate, energy, health and technology loom large, it’s important to ask: How badly have recent events shaken people’s faith in science? Does the public still trust scientists?

To find out, Scientific American partnered with our sister publication, Nature, the international journal of science, to poll readers online. More than 21,000 people responded via the Web sites of Nature and of Scientific American and its international editions. As expected, it was a supportive and science-literate crowd—19 percent identified themselves as Ph.Ds. But attitudes differed widely depending on particular issues—climate, evolution, technology—and on whether respondents live in the U.S., Europe or Asia.

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