In 2016, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences launched The Public Face of Science project—an effort to better understand the complex and evolving relationship between science and society, and examine how trust in science is shaped by individual experiences, beliefs, and engagement with science.
In advance of the release of the final project report later this month, we are highlighting resources and insights from the first two reports that are useful to all science engagement practitioners. You can use these data and infographics to both contextualize your work engaging and educating the public on STEM topics as well as to help make the case for your work to stakeholders, funders, and policymakers.
The project’s final report, The Public Face of Science in America: Priorities for the Future, identifies a need for systemic support for science engagement in order to strengthen the connections between science and society, and will include specific goals and actions for key stakeholders in the field. Stay tuned to ASTC’s communications channels for updates!
Perceptions of Science in America (2018)
The first report from The Public Face of Science provides a high-level overview of how science is viewed in America using polling data from NORC at the University of Chicago, the National Science Board, and the Pew Research Center. All of the graphics below, as well as others from the report, are available to download.
The top three takeaways from this data compilation are:
- Confidence in scientific leaders has remained relatively stable over the last thirty years. While trust in other institutions like the media and Congress has declined, trust in the scientific community has been consistent since the 1970s (see the latest data).
- Confidence in science varies based on age, race, educational attainment, region, political ideology, and other characteristics. Although attitudes toward science are generally positive, the degree of confidence in science varies among demographic groups.
- The latest data from the Pew Research Center shows that trust in science is growing among Democrats but staying steady among Republicans.
- There is no single anti-science population, but more research is needed to understand what drives skepticism about specific science issues. Attitudes toward science are not uniformly associated with one particular demographic group but instead vary based on the specific issue.
- One point of note for science engagement professionals: “a person’s knowledge of science facts and research is not necessarily predictive of acceptance of the scientific consensus on a particular question. Indeed, for certain subgroups and for certain topics such as climate change, higher levels of science knowledge may even be associated with more-polarized views.” Presenting scientific facts is not enough; these findings highlight the importance of listening and understanding an individual’s perspective and values when communicating on more controversial science topics like genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and climate change.
To learn more about recent trends in how Americans view science, watch a recording of the recent webinar, “Attitudes Toward Science During COVID-19 and What it Means for Engagement.” Additionally, Rose Hendricks, a Civic Science Fellow, wrote a summary of what the findings mean for science communication.
Encountering Science in America (2019)
The second report from The Public Face of Science explored what is known about the ways people experience science in order to “improve understanding and awareness of the range of participants, approaches, and outcomes that form this complex landscape of science communication and engagement among communities interested in participating in or supporting the practice.” All of the infographics below, as well as others from the report, are available for download.
Highlights from the report include:
- A basic conceptual framework for science engagement, citing recent literature on each of the core elements. The section, “Resources on Science Engagement,” provides links to other key resources on science engagement from American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Academies, the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE), and other reputable organizations and institutions.
- An overview of the venues and activities where people engage with science, such as science centers, festivals, citizen science, social media, and online content. The highlights for each domain include insights into what we know about who participates in these activities and their motivations for doing so.
- Data from a 2017 Pew Research Center study that shows where people go to get their science information and which sources they consider reliable. In the survey, more respondents indicated that science and technology centers and museums are likely to get their science facts right most of the time compared to other sources such as government agencies, podcasts, or advocacy organizations.
- Examples of how science engagement can benefit society through (1) fostering community engagement with science, (2) building trust in information on controversial topics, (3) broadening participation in STEM fields and activities.