Feb 20, 2020 | 14:00—15:00
What drives scientists’ public support for contentious policy issues? We examined associations between peer exposure and academic specialization on public declarations about research involving potentially pandemic pathogens. Although we found significant peer associations for everyone, they are strongest among the opposition. Conversely, specializing in fields directly related to gain-of-function research predicts support better than specializing in fields related to epidemic risks predicts opposition. These findings suggest that different social processes, rooted in differing social networks and expertise, underlie support or opposition. Identifying the sources of policy support might help parties better understand the different, but legitimate, foundations of each other’s positions, providing additional information to inform decision making and thereby help to maintain science’s role as an objective arbiter for policy.