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Public Interpretations of and Responses to Scientific Disputes

Resource Type
  • Johnson, Branden (Decision Research)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • NSF
    • Award Number: 1455867
Free Keywords
  • Abstract

    Given expanding publicity about conflicts among, and distrust of, authorities, scientific disagreements may individually or collectively undermine lay trust in support for science and scientists. Potential outcomes may include misconstruing the true nature of a field’s uncertainties, ignoring expert advice on protecting oneself, or reducing support for use of science in policymaking or education. This research aims to answer three questions: 1) How do lay people interpret disagreement among scientists in terms of dispute origins and cues to which of the contending sides is most credible?; 2) What beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors about the disputed topic or science stem from these lay interpretations?; and 3) How malleable are such interpretations and responses to interventions (i.e., education on scientific process)? Diverse public samples saw scenarios involving two-sided mass disputes on topics varying in public salience, impacts, and familiarity, such as the nature of dark matter, desirable dietary salt intake, or nanotechnology. The research probed the relative role of knowledge, values, self-interest, history, and vote-counting as factor in lay beliefs about why scientific disputes occur (e.g., self-interest, incompetence, inherent complexity of the topic), cues to disputants’ credibility (e.g., perceived uncertainty of the field, credentials, salient value similarity, self-interest), lay responses to disputes among scientists, and messages intended to inform or reduce individual defensiveness about disputes.

Temporal Coverage
  • 2015-07-14 / 2018-11-12
    Collection Date(s): Tue Jul 14 00:00:00 EDT 2015--Mon Nov 12 00:00:00 EST 2018
Sampled Universe
Smallest Geographic Unit: United States
Surveys 2 through 10 were random but not nationally representative surveys. Survey 11 was a nationally representative sample, provided by YouGov. Study 1 included focus groups.
Collection Mode
  • web-based survey~~

  • Is cited by
    URL: urlzs.como/Ei3E (Text)
  • Is cited by
    DOI: 10.1111/risa. 13298 (Text)
  • Is cited by
    DOI: 1177/0963662517706451 (Text)
  • Is cited by
    DOI: 10.1177/0963662519880319 (Text)
  • Dieckmann, N, F., and B.B. Johnson. “Why Do Scientists Disagree? Explaining and Improving Measures of the Perceived Causes of Scientific Disputes.” PLoS One 14, no. 2 (2019). urlzs.como/Ei3E.
    • ID: urlzs.como/Ei3E (URL)
  • Johnson, B.B. “Experiments in Lay Cues to the Relative Validity of Positions Taken by Disputing Groups of Scientists.” Risk Analysis 39 (2019): 1657–74. 13298.
    • ID: 10.1111/risa. 13298 (DOI)
  • Johnson, B.B. “‘Counting Votes’ in Public Responses to Scientific Disputes.” Public Understanding of Science 27 (2018): 594–610.
    • ID: 1177/0963662517706451 (DOI)
  • Johnson, B.B., and N.F. Dieckmann. “Lay Americans’ Views of Why Scientists Disagree with Each Other.” Public Understanding of Science 27 (2018): 824–35.
  • Johnson, Branden B., and Nathan F. Dieckmann. “Americans’ Views of Scientists’ Motivations for Scientific Work.” Public Understanding of Science 29, no. 1 (January 2020): 2–20.
    • ID: 10.1177/0963662519880319 (DOI)

Update Metadata: 2020-02-21 | Issue Number: 1 | Registration Date: 2020-02-21

Johnson, Branden (2020): Public Interpretations of and Responses to Scientific Disputes. Version: V0. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.