Public trust in the covid-19 response can be regained. Not only must policymakers check their political aspirations at the door when lives are at stake, but also more scientists must convey information directly to the public about covid-19 and other urgent issues ripe for the spread of misinformation.
Science is neither Republican nor Democratic. It is a dispassionate process. Science is also not static — when a new threat like covid-19 arises, the science will evolve and so will the advice associated with it. Scientists are the best positioned to de-dramatize science and instill trust in the scientific process. Let’s engage them.
The writer is president and chief executive of
Research!America, a not-for-profit
public education and advocacy alliance.
By most accounts, the American public’s perception of a covid-19 vaccine is tainted — with disinformation. To ensure that more people will take a new vaccine, social scientists must join the public debate on the safety and efficacy of an approved vaccine.
The irony is rich; scientists are uniquely positioned to receive approval for a vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration. Still, soon after approval, the voices of scientists must fade into the white noise of the public debate. Because Americans have absorbed far too much disinformation during the race to approve a vaccine — much of which is related to it being an election year, and some that must be attributable to the lingering distrust of Operation Warp Speed.
Regrettably, after months of partisan bickering, the public debate has been weaponized and a vaccine is increasingly becoming something to be feared, not celebrated.
Mark M. Spradley, Chevy Chase