Scientists suspected of not listening to ordinary people - survey

Too many people feel uninformed on big issues such as climate and energy, results show

The Science in Ireland Barometer shows too many people feel uninformed about major science issues such as climate and energy. They also believe scientists do not listen to ordinary people. File photograph: Getty Images

The Science in Ireland Barometer shows too many people feel uninformed about major science issues such as climate and energy. They also believe scientists do not listen to ordinary people. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A major study published on Wednesday shows people in Ireland are generally supportive of State investment in science and believe it is important for our economic development.

The study also shows too many people feel uninformed about major science issues such as climate and energy. They also believe scientists do not listen to ordinary people.

The Science in Ireland Barometer sampled the views of more than than 1,000 people around the State and was released by Minister of State for Research and Innovation Damien English to mark the launch of Science Week 2015, which gets under way in November offering more than 800 events.

Science Foundation Ireland commissioned the survey, conducted by Millward Brown.

It is the most detailed survey of its kind yet conducted to understand the public’s response to science, said the director general of the foundation, Prof Mark Ferguson.

‘Not to assume’

The survey is expected to provide baseline data that will help improve the public’s engagement with science, he said. “It is better to understand and not to assume,” he added.

“People believe science is important and believe it is important for the economy,” he continued. The barometer provided the evidence needed to highlight public support for research, he said.

Science Week is about helping people engage with science, technology, engineering and maths. It is intended to encourage young people to enjoy science and consider further education in the subject, Prof Ferguson added.

Half of those polled felt they were uninformed about science but 58 per cent declared themselves interested, said Roger Jupp of Millward Brown.

The survey showed a gender gap, with men generally more interested in science than women. It also revealed a socio-economic divide, with better-off people more supportive than the less well-off.

Societal challenges

The public are very clear about the value they see in scientific research. Between 83 and 88 per cent of people believe science education is important, that it will improve Ireland and that it could solve major societal challenges.

Nine out of 10 people said science was important for people’s future and almost as many said it would bring economic growth and support jobs, Mr Jupp said.

There were barriers, he added. About seven in 10 people said science was too specialised for them, that there was too much conflicting information, and that scientists didn’t listen to ordinary people.