It is argued that COVID-19 will reverse the ongoing trend of challenging the value of science and the integrity of scientists. This column shows that exposure to epidemics in one’s country of residence during the ‘impressionable years’ of ages 18 to 25 has no impact on confidence in science as an enterprise, but negatively affects views of the honesty and public-spiritedness of scientists.
COVID-19 will change everything. (For overviews of the implications, see Benassy-Quere et al. 2020 and Benassy-Quere and Weder di Mauro 2020.) One effect, it has been argued, will be to reverse the secular trend of challenging the value of scientific expertise. “The coronavirus crisis has put a spotlight on the importance of science in supporting our nation’s well being” (Shepherd 2020). At the same time, the pandemic has put on display certain leaders’ “longstanding practice of undermining scientific expertise for political purposes” (Friedman and Plumer 2020), conceivably with negative implications for how the public views science and scientists. All of which points to the question posed by Grove (2020): “Will the coronavirus renew public trust in science?”