6 May 2019

Academies Weigh In on Science and Trust, Citizen Science

Richard Fienberg

Richard Fienberg American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This post is based on a National Academies press release:

National Academies LogoThe national science academies of the Group of Seven (G7) countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — have issued several joint statements to their respective governments, to inform discussions during the G7 summit to be held in August in France, as well as to inform ongoing policymaking. In two of the statements, the academies call for strategies to maintain trust in science and to maximize the benefits of citizen science in the Internet era.

Science and trust. The need for science and innovation to contribute to solving local and global issues requires societal trust in science. Although confidence in science remains high, there are serious and rapidly changing challenges, such as misinformation that is now easily spread on the Internet. Scientists should give a high priority to establishing a genuine dialogue with their fellow citizens, sharing scientific advances with them, and discussing potential negative impacts of science and technology. Maintaining trust in science will also require widespread science education to increase understanding of how research is conducted, as well as the promotion of honest, ethical, and responsible research. Read the full statement (PDF).

Citizen science in the Internet era. The potential value of involving citizens in the conduct of science is high: It can improve public understanding of science and the scientific method, and it can advance knowledge and innovation in ways that were previously inaccessible to academic, government, or industrial research organizations. The statement recommends creating specific funding programs for citizen science; promoting the co-development of citizen science and laboratory-based research; and taking action to avoid or mitigate ethical lapses and security risks in citizen science. Read the full statement (PDF).

The US National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.