A recent report by the British Academy highlights that when people lose faith in politics or politicians, they may become sceptical about the science used in government policy. The report Public Trust in Science for Policymaking, commissioned by the UK Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology (CST), provides independent insight at a crucial time, as the independent inquiry into the UK government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic prepares to publish its first findings in Summer 2024.

The report analysed how real-life communities understood and engaged with three different issues where science has informed public policy: clean air zones, genetically modified food, and Mpox. Its findings shed light on public trust in science used in government policymaking. The report found that people want nuance and transparency when science informs government policy.

Trust in science can be impacted by trust in politics. Presenting scientific findings as overly simplistic can increase political polarisation, leading to a loss of faith in science used to shape policies. Telling the public that policymakers are simply “following the science” can also undermine their trust.

Scientific evidence and limitations must be clearly stated to build trust in science, and policymakers and science communicators should be transparent about uncertainties and tell the public how they will tackle those gaps. Public trust in science improves when the scientific process is more accessible, transparent, and familiar to everyone. This instils a sense of public ownership, especially when citizen science and local lived experiences are considered.


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