Research by the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath, U.K., along with colleagues at the Universities of Oxford and Aberdeen, found that trust in scientists has hugely increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also found that people were more likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine if their trust in the science had increased.
Using data from a survey of more than 2,000 U.K. adults commissioned by the Genetics Society, the team asked individuals whether their trust in scientists had gone up, down, or stayed the same.
- A third of people reported that their trust in scientists had gone up.
- When Pfizer, a company that made COVID-19 vaccines, was used as an example of the pharma industry, more people reported a positive response than when GlaxoSmithKline, a company not associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, was mentioned.
- The researchers also found that people who reported holding a negative view of science before the pandemic had become even more negative.
- People reporting increased trust were most likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Those preferring not to do so reported a decline in trust.
This is an interesting study with relevance to many discussions we had on this blog. I recommend reading it in full. Here are the abstract and link to the paper:
While attempts to promote acceptance of well-evidenced science have historically focused on increasing scientific knowledge, it is now thought that for acceptance of science, trust in, rather than simply knowledge of, science is foundational. Here we employ the COVID-19 pandemic as a natural experiment on trust modulation as it has enabled unprecedented exposure of science. We ask whether trust in science has on the average altered, whether trust has changed the same way for all and, if people have responded differently, what predicts these differences? We 1) categorize the nature of self-reported change in trust in “scientists” in a random sample of over 2000 UK adults after the introduction of the first COVID vaccines, 2) ask whether any reported change is likely to be real through consideration of both a negative control and through experiment, and 3) address what predicts change in trust considering sex, educational attainment, religiosity, political attitude, age and pre-pandemic reported trust. We find that many more (33%) report increased trust towards “scientists” than report decreased trust (7%), effects of this magnitude not being seen in negative controls. Only age and prior degree of trust predict change in trust, the older population increasing trust more. The prior degree of trust effect is such that those who say they did not trust science prior to the pandemic are more likely to report becoming less trusting, indicative of both trust polarization and a backfire effect. Since change in trust is predictive of willingness to have a COVID-19 vaccine, it is likely that these changes have public health consequences.
“While attempts to promote acceptance of well-evidenced science have historically focused on increasing scientific knowledge, it is now thought that for acceptance of science, trust in, rather than simply knowledge of, science is foundational.”
Therein lies the problem.
And why do you fondly imagine that might be, Robert?
As the proverb goes, “The sheep worry their whole lives about the wolf, only to be eaten by the shepherd.” – there is only one way to protect oneself and that is by one’s own research and never take the word of anyone else unchallenged, especially an “expert” such as a shepherd: trust a shepherd before a farmer and a farmer before the landowner but never trust your government – if it’s for your own protection, run like hell!
I find this rather heartening as it’s contrary to the impression you get from much of the public discourse. I guess it just confirms that those with the least to say make the most noise when saying it.
This is nothing more than an opinion poll…. as in Rasmussen poll.
Mr. Ricard Rasker just notified me today that opinion polls are NOT science.
Whatt-aya you say Richard, are these findings’ science or not ?
Science eludes you, RG. Go back to counting chemtrails, they don’t count themselves.
I’m counting everyday sir, the only days I don’t count are rainy days.
My last count is zero chemtrails in South America…. with an occasional CONtrail that disperses in minutes. I’ll keep ya posted if I find a chemtrail.
Did not expect anything less from you. If you ever get bored of counting chemtrails, you could count UFOs. I hear the skies are clear where you live.
I marvel at your reading skills, which are pretty much defined by their absence.
I never said that opinion polls are not science. I said that polls and surveys produce opinions, not objective facts. If for instance a survey finds that 40% of people distrust Covid vaccines, then that tells us nothing about the actual quality of those vaccines, but only what people think of them.
These findings tell us what opinion people have about scientists and science – and that opinion appears to be positive on average.
If pressed for a yes or no answer, I’d say that this poll by itself is not science; it is merely an observation. It can however become part of science (e.g. sociology or psychology) if this observation contributes to explaining people’s behaviour with regard to healthcare choices or social interactions.
Richard Rasker said:
“…These findings tell us what opinion people have about scientists and science – and that opinion appears to be positive on average…”
Just as well they are not misinformation, otherwise no one would see them (the censors read them with their eyes closed to avoid being corrupted).
What misinformation is, is also censored. It could be malinformation even, or disinformation, no one knows, especially the censors, that way, it’s safer.
Richard Rasker wrote: “If pressed for a yes or no answer, I’d say that this poll by itself is not science; it is merely an observation.”
“merely an observation”: it is a statistical sample from within a statistical population.
I’d say taking a statistical sample is just one specific way to make an observation about something. But I think we’re needlessly mincing words here.
I was addressing the study, which wasn’t some generic observation, in relation to the pseudo‑dialogue between you and your antagonist.
The various antagonists seem to have blinded you to at least three of their tiresome fallacies:
• arguing from a specific, to a general, then back to a different specific;
• arguing from a general, to a specific, then back to a different general;
• category errors, see below.
“I never said that opinion polls are not science. I said that polls and surveys produce opinions, not objective facts.”
C’mon Richard, you are twisting words ! So polls ARE science ?
I actually think I agree with you that polls are not always that reliable. I apologize to attach your name to my post. I was actually taking issue with the professor’s “The trust in scientists has hugely increased after the COVID-19 pandemic.” post. Just to point out that was is represented in that specific article is an opinion poll, and not in the least science.
The numpties, quacks, and woomeisters who regularly comment on Edzard’s blog, endlessly regurgitate the same fallacies.
The presented result(s) of a poll of opinions, cannot be “science” in and of itself; irrespective of whether or not science, and the methods of science, were used within the data collection and data analysis parts of the whole study.
Expecting the study to be, or criticizing it for not being, “science” is committing the specific category error called the fallacy of composition: assuming that the whole has the properties of the part.
“Alternatively, the category mistake can also be characterized as the fallacy of mistaking the categorical and ontological status of a given concept, such as grouping it under categories that are not relevant. E.g. ‘The number 3 is blue’.”
— Category mistake, RationalWiki
Well said, Pete. But I am afraid the concept of fallacies is lost on said numpties. Not only do they commit the same fallacies again and again, but they also hang on to the same
anti-vaxxerpro-disease talking point like their life depends on it. In doing so they exhibit an abysmal understanding of basic science and logic.
Nope, I was correcting your interpretation of what I said earlier.
Not necessarily. Polls can be a part of science, as a way to collect data that is used in scientific research, but many polls have no scientific relevance whatsoever. I’d say that polls are certainly not science if nothing is done with the gathered data.
I think you are right when you say that this survey about people’s trust in science is by itself not science. It is however an interesting bit of information, suggesting that most people are quite sensible.
A Rasmussen poll report has reported “Nearly as many Americans believe someone close to them died from side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine as died from the disease itself.” I dont think that bodes well for “trust in science” or trust in “Mr. Science”, Dr Fauci, particularly as they try to roll our more worthless boosters.
Not many around here trust what comes out of your mouth, let alone your rear-end. Americans can believe whatever they want, that doesn’t make it true.
Wow! Nasty! I gave the link. Believe whatever you want at your own peril.
I never thought I would agree with you on anything. But proctophasia is a nasty affliction as described in this article: Proctophasia: a nasty affliction of many proponents of so-called alternative medicine. By far modern science has not been able to cure proctophasia but I am sure homeopaths are more than willing to fill the gap with their memory-water treatments.