Is There Such a Thing as Too Much (Concern About) Trust?
Thursday, August 18, 11-11:30 a.m. CDT | Zoom Room A
The combustive mix of an ongoing COVID pandemic and the ghosts of Trump presidency past have led scientists to declare a trust emergency. If we could just restore trust, the theory goes, polarization, anti-vaccine sentiments, and climate denialism could all be eradicated. Unfortunately, this hypothesis disintegrates quickly when we look at the empirical evidence and the normative ideals underlying it. Not only is absolute trust in science an undesirable ideal democratically, there’s little evidence that trust has eroded significantly in most countries, or that anti-science sentiments are correlated with a lack of epistemic appreciation for science. So what does this mean for communication? How can we meaningfully connect with audiences about emerging and sometimes contested science? And, how can we balance the tensions between having to get public buy-in to urgent policy challenges like COVID, while maintaining long-term trust in science as our best way of producing knowledge?
Dietram A. Scheufele is the Taylor-Bascom Chair in Science Communication and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the Morgridge Institute for Research, and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. Scheufele is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German National Academy of Science and Engineering, and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Communication Association. He currently co-chairs the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication and the consensus study committee on Addressing Inaccurate and Misleading Information about Biological Threats. He also serves on NASEM’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) Advisory Committee, the Board on Health Sciences Policy, and the LabX Advisory Committee. Since 2012, he has co-organized five NASEM Colloquia on the Science of Science Communication. Over the course of his career, Scheufele has held fellowships or visiting appointments at a number of other universities, including Harvard, Penn, the Technische Universität Dresden, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, and – most recently – the Universität Wien. His consulting portfolio includes work for DeepMind, Porter Novelli, PBS, WHO, and the World Bank.