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Building Trust In Science

What is science?

Science is a rigorous, systematic endeavor that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.

The coverage comprises authoritative, highly accessible information on the very latest terminology, concepts, theories, techniques, people, and organizations relating to all areas of science and technology, from astronomy, engineering, physics, computer science, and mathematics, to life and earth sciences, chemistry, environmental science, biology, and psychology. Written by trusted experts for researchers at every level, entries are complemented by illustrative line drawings, equations, and charts wherever useful.

Science is a process that builds upon existing theories and knowledge by continuously revising them. Every aspect of scientific knowledge can be questioned, including the general rules of thinking that appear to be most certain.

When the history of our current moment is written, science will be central to the story. In the crucible of 2020, did science rebuild the societal trust needed to defeat the Corona virus? Or did a break in trust lead to a lingering pandemic that foreshadowed future failures to solve the coming crises of climate change, food and water insecurity, and economic stagnation? Historians will consider what led to this pivotal moment in the relationship of science and society and how it was resolved. Scientists and society must work together to ensure that this time of uncertainty and upheaval leads to a new era of solutions that enrich the lives and well-being of us all.

One element is absolutely critical to the success of our mission to improve the human condition: trust. It’s a foundational element of any relationship, but for the mutual benefit of the scientific enterprise and the people who support it, trust is essential. Simply put, a scientific endeavor that is not trusted by the public cannot adequately contribute to society and will be diminished as a result.

How do we consider the best path forward into an increasingly technology-oriented world—one that both faces these challenges head-on and works to address pressing societal issues? The time to build trust is before you need it. We need to build relationships in and across communities to become better informed and much more inclusive in how we define problems and find solutions. We must proactively and vigorously make connections and build trust between scientists and communities. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science, we create opportunities for scientists to listen to and share information with public audiences through conversations with diverse communities, from policymakers to reporters, from religious leaders to lawyers and judges. We place scientists as policy fellows within congressional and federal agency offices, where they can learn from and directly influence policymakers. We connect journalists with vetted scientific experts to help reporters understand the science behind key issues. We help integrate science into the curricula of theologically diverse seminaries, showing that faith and science can be compatible. Perhaps most importantly, we help scientists build relationships in their communities before they are needed during a crisis.

Science is not just for the few. It is for everyone and can be used by anyone. We must find new and better ways to connect the practice and use of science to inform and shape our communities, our country, and our world. We must make sure that when historians look back at our time, they see how trust between science and society was actively strengthened and led to lasting benefits for the public good.

Trust is a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another”.

Special thanks to Forest Whitaker, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, for joining the share and being an extraordinary force for positive change in our world.

As a knowledge-based organization, UNESCO publishes global data and scientific information to guide public policies. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics produces a wide range of indicators in the fields of education, science, culture, communication, and information.

Education transforms lives and is central to UNESCO’s mission of promoting peace, eradicating poverty, and promoting sustainable development. It is a human right for all throughout life. The Organization is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to cover all aspects of education. It has been entrusted to lead the Global Education 2030 Agenda through Sustainable Development Goal.  

UNESCO provides global and regional leadership in education, strengthens education systems worldwide, and responds to contemporary global challenges through education with gender equality as an underlying principle. Its work encompasses quality educational development from pre-school to higher education and beyond.

By: Dr. Rasheed Tunde Lawal, Ph.D.

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