Scientists and scientific institutions are losing popularity among Americans of a certain ideological arc (Republican voter or Republican trend) according to the results of recent polls.
For example, a June 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center notes that 58 percent of Republicans and Republican voters felt that colleges and universities are having a negative impact on the country, an increase of 13 points since its September 2016 survey.
In 2011, a survey conducted by Research! America found that 66 percent of Americans surveyed could not name a living scientist. In 2016, Research! America asked the question again and the results were much worse. Today, 83 percent of Americans surveyed cannot name a single living scientist, an increase of 17 points in just five years.
A 2017 RAND report highlighted "a growing trend towards public skepticism and distrust of science itself as an objective contribution in decision making."
In short, the gap between the public and science is widening. And it not only seems the fault of the public, but of the scientists themselves. In his report, Public Trust, Science Research! America, surveyed scientists to discover the reasons why many of them do not get involved with the public. They answered things like this:
- I have no time
- I am not asked
- I do not know how
- Apathy / I don't want
- Lack of incentives
- Fear of being misunderstood
Unless the academic program offers more encouragement and professional incentives for the effort to communicate with the public, it seems to be moving away from science. And ** without public understanding, research funds will decrease **.
To present yourself better to the public, It makes sense that scientists work with civic institutions that the public already trusts. For example, the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum and research complex in the world, is leveraging its institutional credibility to promote a productive civic discourse, convening public conversations on diverse topics. But more efforts are needed. If the gap widens, that could have a great impact on science, not only because it receives less funds, but because people will turn their backs.