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Letter to the Editor: Trust in science is crucial

The Oct. 12 front-page article “Another casualty of 2020: Trust in science” observed that covid-19 therapies and vaccines have become entangled in the presidential election-year politics and explained how this has compromised the public’s trust in the work of our health agencies. There is some positive news about public trust, however, suggesting that this relates far more to the circumstances surrounding covid-19 than to Americans’ views on the value of science itself. Our recently commissioned survey shows overwhelming bipartisan confidence in science. Seventy-nine percent of Americans expressed confidence that scientists are working on their behalf, and 80 percent believe it is important for elected officials to listen to scientists. 

Public trust in the covid-19 response can be regained. Not only must policymakers check their political aspirations at the door when lives are at stake, but also more scientists must convey information directly to the public about covid-19 and other urgent issues ripe for the spread of misinformation. 

Science is neither Republican nor Democratic. It is a dispassionate process. Science is also not static — when a new threat like covid-19 arises, the science will evolve and so will the advice associated with it. Scientists are the best positioned to de-dramatize science and instill trust in the scientific process. Let’s engage them.

Mary Woolley, Arlington
The writer is president and chief executive of
Research!America, a not-for-profit
public education and advocacy alliance.