Australians trust scientists because they don’t understand where the money comes from, said a Melbourne researcher.
Dr Christine Critchley, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Swinburne University in Australia, said the public’s trust in science was dependent on a stereotypical view that science is totally publically funded, yet this may not always be the case.
Critchley said her research suggested that trust in scientists drops dramatically if people think a drug or private company is funding the work.
She said that the Federal Government had encouraged public engagement with science, as outlined in the Inspiring Australia report of 2010. At the same time, there has been a massive push towards commercialisation.
Critchley thinks these two policy directions create a dilemma because the public is less likely to trust commercialised science.
She said the standing of private science might improve if the public understood that privately funded science is regulated and has similar obligations to publically funded science.
Critchley also assisted with a project commissioned by the Victorian Department of Business and Innovation and conducted by Sweeney Research and called Community interest and engagement with science and technology in Victoria 20111.
The project asked 800 Victorians questions about their attitudes to science. The results showed that 61 per cent of Victorians think that scientists are trustworthy and 81 per cent think that science has a positive impact on health and medicine.