This article reframes an issue first visited a decade ago in a Nutrition Today article about the decline in influence of the “gatekeepers” of scientific information. In the current “post-truth” era, characterized by an underskeptical view of “facts,” some observers have expressed fears that public trust in scientific and other expertise is on the decline or, worse, has evaporated altogether. With the ascendancy of Web-based analysis of everything from climate science to nutrition and food safety, these observers fear that actual scientists working in food and health no longer have influence in public discussions. The issue impacts not only scientific issues, but literally everything from pop culture, including music, books, movies, and the like, to highly technical fields such as health insurance and finance: all are subject to this “expertise devaluation” phenomenon. This article explores the arguments and reviews the communication landscape, offering insights into a new disciplined framework for how society, and specifically nutritionists, might extricate themselves from the current minimal trust environment.
Sylvia B. Rowe, MA, is currently president of SR Strategy pursuing communications and issues management consulting on a broad range of health, nutrition, food safety, and risk issues. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Nick Alexander, BA, is former senior media counselor for the IRC Foundation in Washington, DC. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University and is a former network correspondent with ABC News. For more than the past decade, Alexander has tracked and written about science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Correspondence: Sylvia B. Rowe, MA, SR Strategy, LLC, 1100 Connecticut Ave, NW Ste 600, Washington, DC 20036 (email@example.com).