In a pandemic-driven world, trust in science is rising

People in protective gear examine pages of notes.

Enlarge / Scientists doing what they do best. (credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Last week, the Pew Research Center released the results of a series of polls that explored how the populations of 20 different countries view science. While the Pew has the advantage of over a decade of data in some countries and large survey populations, it suffered a bit in terms of timing. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed science to the forefront of the news and policy discussions, and it gave everyone a personal interest in staying abreast of the latest medical advice.

If anything were likely to change the public's views of science, the pandemic would seem to be it. And the Pew polled a bit too early to find out.

But Pew isn't the only organization that does this sort of polling. Back in 2018, 3M (a company that hires lots of scientists and engineers) started started sharing the results of its own international surveys of public attitudes towards science. And by this year, the surveys had been running long enough to detect a general drop in trust toward science and scientists—at least prior to the pandemic. In response to COVID-19, however, 3M went back and did a second set of surveys and found that the trend was completely reversed, with trust in science showing a sudden rise.

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