In the opinion of many scientists and non-scientists alike, the advent of COVID-19 accelerated an increase already underway in the proportion of Americans and persons worldwide who are skeptical about research findings, science methods, and even the motivations of scientists. We continue to see this doubt manifested in people’s acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as numerous other vaccines, mask recommendations, willingness to be tested, and other health behaviors. We further see the doubts illustrated in other areas of science – climate change, perhaps being the most dramatic example. This raises an overarching question to which we invite senior associate editors, associate editors, reviewers, prior authors, never-before contributors, and other readers of Health Behavior and Policy Review
to reply: How does the scientific community regain the narrative in science and public health?
We anticipate publishing a set of papers on this topic in early 2023 and seek contributions as soon as possible, but before December 31, 2022
. Our overarching question leads to a series of sub-questions that may help guide persons who contribute to this special call for papers:
- How do we narrow the gap between scientists and the general public in the acceptance and understanding of scientific evidence?
- To what extent is skepticism about science and public health recommendations warranted?
- Have the public health and science communities actually ‘lost’ momentum for guiding the public?
- What are the factors that influence belief and trust in science and their antithesis?
- Has there been a decline in interest in science in the United States or elsewhere in the world?
- Have people lost faith in entities such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization? If so, what restorative measures are possible?
- To what extent does politics guide science or vice versa? What can we expect in the future?
- How can scientific findings and public health recommendations be communicated better? What will it take beyond the peer-reviewed journal? Is there still trust in peer review?
- Has predatory publishing permanently scarred the integrity of science?
- To what extent are scientists partially to blame for a declining faith in science?
- For the US, what is the relationship between science acceptance and education, or between education and interest in STEM careers?
- To what extent are we witnessing a growth in anti-intellectualism in the US? What is responsible for it? How can it be addressed?
- To what extent are there parallels between the denial of climate change and the skepticism about COVID-19 and related issues?
These items are intended only to scratch the surface of the range of issues we would like to see addressed. We believe the questions we raise indicate that we have serious problems to solve and need serious people to solve them. Health Behavior and Policy Review always has been committed to making sure that authors’ contributions address implications for health behavior or policy, and more specifically, indicate how they address one or more objectives of Healthy People 2030 (for domestic work) or priority objectives advanced by the World Health Organization (for work from outside the US). We must acknowledge that many researchers and other scientists grapple to relate outcomes of their investigations to these objectives; most researchers were not trained to address their findings beyond the specific niche audience of peers; thus, inspiring researchers to communicate findings to non-scientists is an arduous task. Therefore, we invite both past contributors and never-before contributors to add to the discussion here as to how we restore science’s stature and reduce the tension between its advocates and its skeptics. We need your ideas and on-the-ground examples of your successes, partial successes, and even your reflections on unintended failures. We believe that the challenge to produce responsive papers could be an excellent collaborative mentoring opportunity for senior researchers and post-doctoral or graduate student protégés.
Whereas our intention is to build a dedicated issue of Health Behavior and Policy Review to addressing these concerns, we will continue to welcome contributions well into the future. As an incentive for rapid communication on the subjects described herein, we shall waive our standard non-open access publication fee for the first 5 papers that are successfully reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication. Your submission should follow the guidelines for authors: https://parisscholarpublishing.org/manuscript-submission/author-guidelines/ and indicate that it is in response to this call for papers. We look forward to your response to this challenge.