I think that how “connected to reality” scientists are has to do with this trend.
In older times, being a scientist or an engineer meant being able to exert real, measurable, almost magical force upon your (and people around your’s) surroundings. You made a bridge come to existence, you created a vaccine.
Nowadays, being a scientist or an engineer is associated with spending long days holed up in a room doing work which is incredibly complex and expensive, yet does not seem to create net benefit except in rare occasions. Furthermore, this isolation is considered to reduce social aptitude (which is high-status). Compare this to people with capital or social skills, who can almost magically navigate and cause things to happen in our modern very-social world.
The two castes of scientists or engineers which can still “make things happen” are the mad scientist (going against social rules) or the startupist (and his friend, the DIY Maker), and from my local zeitgeist, they are considered positions with status.
Also, this trend is supported by the fact that (As Mitchell_Porter pointed out) scientists get payed to research obscure subjects with questionable value to the world at large. I’m not saying this is bad, but I’m saying that it makes people correlate scientists with obscure subjects.
And how do we fix it? I have two ideas (both of which I actively pursue, and (I believe) let me enjoy a high status life as an engineer and science-lover (Given, I live in Tel Aviv, Israel, where engineers and scientists (I feel) are higher status than the US).
Gain actual real-world power. (Either via capital, social skills, connections, or applicable real-world skillsets)
Use your advantage as a scientist to make people’s lives better in the real world. (Make stuff! Explain stuff!)
PROFIT (Please! No! Not the lol tax!)
Yes, this isn’t as rewarding as learning more about your favorite subject and requires taking risks, but (and sadly I can’t find the reference for this right now) doing hard, risky, not very rewarding work is in itself a way to create status.
Or, in other words, go out and do stuff :) We’ll all benefit from it.