Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 321-335

First online:

Hype and Public Trust in Science

  • Zubin MasterAffiliated withHealth Law and Science Policy Group, Rm 462, Law Centre, University of Alberta Email author 
  • , David B. ResnikAffiliated withNational Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health

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Social scientists have begun elucidating the variables that influence public trust in science, yet little is known about hype in biotechnology and its effects on public trust. Many scholars claim that hyping biotechnology results in a loss of public trust, and possibly public enthusiasm or support for science, because public expectations of the biotechnological promises will be unmet. We argue for the need for empirical research that examines the relationships between hype, public trust, and public enthusiasm/support. We discuss the complexities in designing empirical studies that provide evidence for a causal link between hype, public trust, and public enthusiasm/support, but also illustrate how this may be remedied. Further empirical research on hype and public trust is needed in order to improve public communication of science and to design evidence-based education on the responsible conduct of research for scientists. We conclude that conceptual arguments made on hype and public trust must be nuanced to reflect our current understanding of this relationship.


Public trust Hype Biotechnology Public support/enthusiasm Responsible conduct of research