Does Engagement in Advocacy Hurt the Credibility of Scientists?

This study looks at trust and perceived credibility of scientists engaged in advocacy activities.


It is often assumed that issue advocacy will compromise the credibility of scientists. This study experimented to test public reactions to six different advocacy statements made by scientists, ranging from informational statements to endorsements of specific policies. The research found that scientists engaged in certain forms of advocacy may be able to do so without directly harming their credibility. 


  • It is incorrect to assume that all normative statements made by scientists are detrimental to their credibility.
  • Credibility may be decreased or increased based on a certain issue due to general public perspectives.
  • Nationally represented surveys gauge public opinion trends. This may translate into more negative attitudes on a certain issue.
  • Individuals perceived a greater influence of personal political views and persuasive intentions in some of the        higher levels of advocacy.
  • Preexisting attitudes toward climate change are unlikely to have prevented effects on scientists’ credibility. 


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