A survey of 1500 people, by JWS Research for Universities Australia, shows that even in an era in which institutional trust all across society is at a stark low, a majority (53 per cent) of Australians still put their trust in university scientists, researchers and experts to inject facts and evidence in public debates.
Doctors and medical professionals were the next most trusted, with 39 per cent of Australians expressing trust in them on the same question.
University researchers were the single most trusted group of a range of major professions and sectors to ensure facts and evidence in public debate — rating higher than doctors, business leaders, politicians, journalists, and churches.
Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner said it was clear that Australians looked to experts to verify facts, dispel myths, and ensure public discussion was informed by evidence.
“University researchers are our phone-a-friend experts — our public ‘brains trust’,” she said.
“By the time you’re on your second cup of coffee for the morning, chances are that you’ve already heard from at least half a dozen university researchers and experts in the morning’s news stories.”
“As uni researchers share their expertise, they help us to delve more comprehensively into the who, what, when, where, why and how of important events in our world,” she said.
Professor Gardner said it was clear that everyday Australians respect the expertise of our experts.
“To deliver facts and evidence on matters of public debate, not only do most Australians trust university researchers — they are also the group that Australians trust most,” she said.
“This should be heartening to every one of the researchers working hard in our universities to advance knowledge, to unravel the mysteries of human life and the universe, and to transform the lives of other Australians profoundly through their work.”