A recent post by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn of Health Populi summarizes the findings of the 2008 Edelman Trust Barometer. For those of us interested in the progress of predictive health research, who "we" trust is a key question. If participants and the community at large, including the legislators representing the community, do not trust the researchers who form biobanks and enroll participants in longitudinal studies, support will decline: the money will begin to dry up, adverse legislations will be passed, and (most importantly) potential research participants will do something else with their time and good will. Researchers will be relieved, therefore, to discover that the "Biotech/Life sciences" industry is one of the most trusted sectors in North America - a few points ahead of "Banks" and a few points behind "Technology".
One must remember, however, that the survey is limited to what the PR firm calls "opinion elites" - people Edelman's considers to be influential or, even, trend-setters. I suspect that most medical researchers hope for a more diverse demographic. Of course, even if the survey had measured the attitudes of a broader population, the findings would not be all good news for the future of predictive health research studies. The "Insurance" industry ranked only above "Media companies" on the trust-barometer in North America, and was ranked last in the global survey. Will people, even "opinion elites", be willing to participate in research if they anticipate that the results may be used unscrupulously (or to their personal disadvantage) by a distrusted insurance industry? Would you? - J.O.