The devastation from last year’s natural disasters and the failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear accident have led to a huge loss of trust in scientists, a science ministry report showed on June 19.
According to the ministry’s 2012 White Paper on Science and Technology, an online survey conducted between October and November last year found that 64.2 percent of the respondents trusted scientists to a certain degree, a drop of 20.3 percentage points from a survey taken a year earlier.
Specifically, 6.2 percent believe scientists are “trustworthy,” compared with 15.9 percent in the 2010 survey, while 58 percent felt scientists’ words were “probably trustworthy,” down from 68.6 percent.
In contrast, 15.2 percent of respondents in the latest survey said scientists were either “untrustworthy” or “probably untrustworthy,” up 10 percentage points from the figure a year earlier.
The white paper attributed the decline in trust to scientists’ failure to predict the huge tsunami that struck on March 11 last year and their underestimation of the vulnerability of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in multiple natural disasters.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology contacted about 1,600 people for each survey.
The white paper also showed that scientists are aware that people have lost faith in their research and studies.
An online survey of 946 scientists conducted after the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear accident found that less than half of them, or 43.7 percent, believe they have the trust of the public, while 39.1 percent think people find them untrustworthy, according to the ministry’s report.
In a door-to-door survey by the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry in November 2009, 78.8 percent of the 685 respondents agreed that scientists, government officials and other experts should decide on the direction of research and development, instead of reflecting the opinions of the public.
But in a similar science ministry survey conducted in December 2011, only 45 percent of 984 respondents endorsed the view.
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