Trust and collaboration between the general public and the scientific community is vital to maintaining our nation’s global leadership in science and technology. Yet, there is a disconnect between the public and scientists in terms of understanding the societal impact of science, according to a panel of experts at the BIO International Convention in Boston, Massachusetts held on June 6. Seema Kumar, vice president of innovation, global health and policy communication, Johnson & Johnson, moderated the panel.
Our nation’s “science enterprise is at risk if the science community remains essentially invisible to the general public,” said Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley. “To reinforce trust, and build relationships, communication between the science community and the public must improve,” she added. “It’s up to scientists to be more accountable, to reach out to say, “I work for you” to the public that is paying the bills via their tax, consumer and philanthropic dollars.” The connection between good health and scientific research must also be made clear to the public, said Dr. Bill Hait, Global Head, Johnson & Johnson External Innovation.
Dr. James Allison, chair of the Department of Immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and recipient of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award, said awards help to increase public awareness of the achievements of scientists and scientific progress. Lucia Brown, the 2018 BioGENEius Hall of Fame Recipient, said a lack of diversity in science could also be a factor in public distrust. “When you have individuals who do not look like you at the head of the table, how can you then trust that the research that is being done is actually for you?” Ashanthi De Silva, a rare disease blogger and patient advocate, said the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Initiative which is gathering data from individuals across different backgrounds to accelerate research could help address the diversity issue.