As I work towards a coherent research question for my dissertation, I find myself challenging assumptions that I never dealt with before. One is that visitors trust the science that is being presented in museums. There is lots of talk about learning science, public understanding of science, public engagement, etc., but trust is frequently glossed over. When we ask someone what they learned from an exhibit, we don’t also ask them how reliable they feel the information is. Much like the various fields of science, there is an assumption that what is being presented is accurate and unbiased in the eyes of the visitor.
In accordance with this, it is also frequently assumed that visitors know the difference between good science, bad science, pseudo science, not science, science in fiction, and science fiction; and that this is reflected in their visitor experiences in science museums. Especially in the internet age, where anyone can freely and widely distribute their thoughts and opinions and agendas, how do people build their understanding of science, and how do these various avenues of information impact trust in science? Media sources have been exposed in scandals where false “science” was disseminated. Various groups deliberately distort information to suit their purposes. In this melee of information and misinformation, are science centers still viewed as reliable sources of science information by the public?