The Public Face of Science

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Growing evidence suggests that the divergent views of scientists and the general public on key science and technology issues result not from lack of knowledge, but rather from differences of culture, beliefs and values. The Rita Allen Foundation is supporting the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as it explores the sources and implications of these differences through a new initiative, The Public Face of Science. The Academy is convening leading scientists, science journalists and science communication specialists to examine aspects of public trust and perception of the scientific process, as well as the role of media in shaping public attitudes. The project is also investigating how scientists have helped to inform public decision-making processes, and how these efforts might be made more effective in the future. For example, the Academy has surveyed nearly 400 of its members on their experiences serving as expert witnesses in the legal system. Along with these studies, the Academy will conduct a systematic examination of the challenges associated with communicating science to the public through the media, public relations offices at research institutions, and other intermediaries. The Public Face of Science will disseminate its findings through its website, public symposia, and radio and television programs produced in partnership with WGBH, Boston-based public broadcasting.