March 01, 2017

Cultural Perceptions of Science: Trials and Regulatory Decision Making

Jim Wedeking and Brenten H. Williams

Scientists have long been trusted and admired, a perception that persists today. According to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey, 84 percent of the public had a positive outlook on science and scientists. Cary Funk, Public and Scientists’ Views on Science and Society, Pew Research Center (Jan. 29, 2015). Only the military and teachers were viewed as contributing more to society’s well-being. On the work of scientists, 79 percent polled agreed that scientific research has increased the quality of health care, food, and the environment. Id. These views may still, to some degree, reflect an afterglow from a perceived post-World War II golden era of scientific research, evoking the heyday of Bell Labs, the Vannevar Bush-inspired flood of government funding for research (particularly for space exploration and the Cold War), and rapid technological improvements in the American standard of living.

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