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.