Conceptualisations of public trust in climate science: a systematic meta-narrative literature review
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Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, Denmark
Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A157
Background: Reflecting the connections between public health and the climate, the World Health Organization recently launched a global knowledge platform dedicated to health and climate to bring together knowledge from practitioners and scientists from various disciplines. Trust mediates the relationship between the public and scientists. There have been concerns that trust in climate science has been negatively impacted over the years by populist denials of climate change, media misrepresentations and misinformation. Public trust in climate science is deemed necessary for ensuring that the public accept and adopt climate-friendly programs and policies. As various conceptualizations of trust may be associated with disciplinary fields, our aim was to investigate how various disciplines have conceptualized public trust in climate science. Methods: We used Greenhalgh and colleagues’ systematic meta-narrative review methodology to investigate narratives of trust in climate science. A literature search identified peer-reviewed papers on trust relating to climate science in the databases Scopus, Web of Science, EBSCO, ProQuest and Ovid MEDLINE. The search resulted in 404 papers, 58 of which were included in the final sample. The following categories were used to systematize data from the papers: author(s), location of empirical studies, academic discipline, research aim, method, conceptualization of trust, type of trust and main findings. Results: We identified 10 different academic disciplines in the sample. Most papers used quantitative Methods, were conducted in the United States and did not explicitly define trust. However, based on the papers’ context and operationalization of trust, we identified six main conceptualizations of trust: attitudinal trust, cognitive trust, affective trust, contingencies of trust, contextual trust, and communicated trust. Conclusions: Public trust was often characterized as residing in experts or expert institutions, and as being associated with trustworthy information. Public trust in health and climate experts seems crucial for affecting the conditions for health around the world.
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