Poles distrustful of sources of scientific knowledge: research

Most Poles are very distrustful of the sources of scientific knowledge, especially if it comes from pharmaceutical companies. In the case of alternative medicine and vaccines, they are divided into two camps: supporters and opponents - according to analyses carried out by researchers from the University of Łódź (UŁ).

Poles have limited trust in scientific content, say researchers from the Faculty of Economics and Sociology of the University of Lodz, after researching Poles on science-related topics, such as climate change, vaccines, GMO food and alternative medicine. 100 people of different age, level of education or origin took part in the research conducted in 2019.

As for the content of a scientific nature - the participants of the consultations more often expressed distrust than trust - according to a report made available to the Polish Press Agency (PAP) by the authors of the study.

Poles are particularly distrustful of pharmaceutical companies because - as respondents pointed out - "in their activities, it is money that counts first, not health".

The majority of the respondents did not trust scientific reports on climate change. There was also a relatively large group of discussion participants who were unable to take an unequivocal position on this matter.

In the case of GMOs, the respondents pointed out that the topic was little known to them, and they associate the term with the labels of the purchased food products, rather than with systematic research or scientific studies.

When it comes to vaccines and alternative medicine, two opposing groups emerged among the study participants: die-hard supporters and critics. "There was no one who would not be able to take a position on trust in the message about vaccines. In the vaccine debate, there is no room for hesitation, doubt or negotiation of opinions," the report said.

The authors of the study noted that Poles primarily trust such messages containing scientific content that come from their immediate environment: from family members and specialists with whom they have personal contact, including family doctors.

The respondents - when asked about the channels and sources of scientific knowledge reaching them - indicated primarily the Internet, including social media, and among traditional media - television and commercial channels.

The report highlights the fact that "respondents do not treat organizations or institutions as a key source of information in shaping their scientific knowledge. The World Health Organization (WHO) is the most frequently mentioned of these".

The researchers also noted that for the audience of scientific content, the quality of the materials devoted to this topic is more important than the quantity. As emphasized, they definitely prefer to reach several valuable messages than to analyze many superficial messages.

The preliminary report on the society's approach to scientific content is the result of the international project Concise - Communication role on perception and beliefs of EU Citizens about Science. Funding for the project comes from the Horizon 2020 budget. Similar research under the Concise project was carried out in four other countries: Italy, Portugal, Spain and Slovakia.