[ASC-list] Fwd: Re: do Australians trust scientists?

longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au
Sun Jun 13 20:18:11 UTC 2010

Thank you to all who responded to this question about trust.

See below for a compilation of excerpts taken from responses which  
might be of general interest.

These include links to Readers Digest surveys of professions and  
people, Swinburne's National Technology and Society Monitor and recent  
work out of CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship.

Kind regards, Nancy

Assoc Prof Nancy Longnecker

Coordinator, Science Communication Program
Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences
The University of Western Australia

1) Readers Digest runs a survey on trust each year - for brands,
individuals and professions.

The survey isn't too bad by methodology and the data is tracked year by

Scientists rate 12 - but doctors and pharmacists might be considered by
some to be scientists. In the individual trust category - many
scientists rate very highly.



Dr Craig Cormick
Public Awareness and Community Engagement
National Enabling Technologies Strategy

2) The closest thing I've seen is Reader's Digest's annual "Australia's
100 most trusted individuals" list. I don't know how rigorous they are
- probably not very - but do appear there, though prominent medical
professionals often do very well: in 2009 Dr Fiona Wood made the
number one spot, with Professor Ian Frazer in third. Dr Karl - a
fixture in the list for many years - came in at number 11.

The 2009 list can be found here:

3) A 2008 Australian Reader's Digest poll shows the trend:

Some quick links to international polls include:

However, I also believe that another question should be asked about the
scientific profession itself - which type of scientists from what industries
are trusted more than others. I think it's not correct to lump all
scientists together. I work in healthcare and I know that pharmaceutical
companies have a bad reputation as being fairly untrustworthy.
Consequentially (and probably unfairly), scientists and healthcare
professionals from pharma companies seem to have attached to them the bad
stigma of the industry. I'm not sure how a survey about the science
profession would work exactly, but it is an interesting question.

4) Hi Nancy

Apologies for the late reply. You might be interested in Swinburne's  
National Technology and Society Monitor. Here's a link to the 2009  

Chris KP

Chris Krishna-Pillay
Victorian Manager, CSIRO Education

5) There was a study done in 2009 by Swinburne called the National  
Technology and Society Monitor. It looked at groups of organisations  
rather than specific professions, and considered how trustworthy those  
organisations were in relation to the provision of science and  
technoloogy information. CSIRO came first, followed by universities,  
medical doctors, scientists and hospitals, then progressed downwards,  
ending with major international companies and commercial media..

6)  The Who Cares about the environment in 2009? Survey asked  
residents of NSW (n=2003) the reliability of different information  
sources including scientists and technical specialists.

In 2009, 38% of respondents said that scientists and technical  
specialists were very reliable (which is a decrease from 2003 (n=1421)  
when 40% of respondents said they were very reliable, although an  
increase from 1994 when only 19% of respondents said they were very  

For more about the Who Cares survey (which has run each three years  
since 1994) and more about these results, see the Department of  
Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW website at:  

7) ...the "Who Cares about the Environment in 2009?" survey of NSW  
people's environmental knowledge, attitudes and behaviours includes a  
question relating to perceived reliability of information sources  
(relating to the environment).

The results are on pages 56-60 of the full report that can be found at  

A question about sources of environmental information is on Page 77.

8) The CSIRO Energy Flagship social sciences group asked in several of  
large group processes which has a question on trust. See in the links  


Similar studies were done in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane which  
are all on the website too.

From: <longneck at cyllene.uwa.edu.au>
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2010 20:14:43 +1000
To: <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
Conversation: [ASC-list] do Australians trust scientists?
Subject: [ASC-list] do Australians trust scientists?

Hello all,

Does anyone know of any (recent) survey data that asks Australians
whether they trust scientists, esp in comparison to other professional

Kind regards, Nancy

Assoc Prof Nancy Longnecker

Coordinator, Science Communication Program
Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, M011
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA   6009

ph: 61 8 6488 3926
email: nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au
skype: nancylongnecker

There is no point explaining everything in the universe if no one is
listening to you.    (UWA Sci Comm student, 2009)

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G

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