Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 321–335 | Cite as

Hype and Public Trust in Science

  • Zubin MasterEmail author
  • David B. Resnik


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 



We are grateful to Professor Timothy Caulfield for the insightful comments on several iterations of this manuscript. We would also like to thank Dr. Bruce Androphy and the reviewers of this manuscript for providing helpful feedback. This research was supported, in part, by a generous grant from the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium and the Stem Cell Network. The work presented here does not represent the views of Health Canada or the Canadian government. This research is also the work product of an employee or group of employees of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), however, the statements, opinions or conclusions contained therein do not necessarily represent the statements, opinions or conclusions of NIEHS, NIH or the United States government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Law and Science Policy Group, Rm 462, Law CentreUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.National Institute of Environmental Health SciencesNational Institutes of HealthResearch Triangle ParkUSA

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