Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future

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Presentation by Sir Mark Walport at the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) conference on 26 September 2013.

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Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future

  1. 1. Engaging the Nation with Science and Research: A Vision for the Future Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government
  2. 2. Faraday at the Royal Institution (Credit: Royal Institution) Engaging the nation with science is not about ‘correcting the deficit’ 2 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future (Credit: Science Museum)
  3. 3. 3 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future Public engagement needs to stimulate interest, demonstrate relevance, and show where it might lead… Could the naked mole rat help find a cure for cancer? Should we do GM research - what are the risks and benefits Is nuclear fission the energy of the future?
  4. 4. Three areas for scientific engagement: Things that are interesting: • Fundamental science: the Higgs boson, genetics and genome science, and how the brain works Things that affect us directly: • e.g. medical science Things where an informed public has societal benefits: • e.g. environmental issues, climate change, vaccination… (Credit: BBC) (Credit: Advanced Cell Technology) (Credit: BBC)
  5. 5. The scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming IPCC report on the physical science basis of climate change due out shortly This is the most authoritative and comprehensive report to date of scientists’ understanding of how the climate is changing and the causes The science is robust and there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that human emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the climate 5 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future
  6. 6. 6 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future Source: Poortinga et al (2013) As far as you know, do you personally think that the world’s climate is changing? (in %) Although a clear majority of the public still think the climate is changing, there has been a downward trend in public belief in the reality of climate change The level of consensus among the public is divided
  7. 7. Concern about climate change among the public has also decreased 7 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future Source: Poortinga et al (2013) Concern about climate change (in %)
  8. 8. Although those who think there is a human component to climate change has remained fairly stable 8 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future Source: Poortinga et al (2013) Thinking about the causes of climate change, which, if any, of the following best describes your opinion?
  9. 9. Presentation title - edit in Header and Footer9 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future Possible Explanations • Global economic downturn • Sceptic voices in the media • Increasing climate fatigue From Poortinga et al, 2013 The reasons for decrease in belief in, and concern about, climate change are likely to be manifold (Credit: PA) (Credit: REUTERS)
  10. 10. Public perceptions of climate change are important • The scale of transformation required for a low carbon economy is likely to require behaviour change • Political will depends on public attitudes, so we need a public that is well-informed, both about the risks, and the options for responding 10 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future (Credit: Ulverstan Green Party)(Credit: Action Tracker) (Credit: Jeremy Hughes)
  11. 11. www.myclimateandme.com
  12. 12. Climate change: science to policy issues We need to understand public concerns 12 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future Nick Pidgeon et al
  13. 13. Reducing the use of finite resources Reducing overall levels of energy use Efficient Environmental protection Avoiding waste Capturing opportunities Naturalness and Nature Availability and Affordability Reliability Safety Autonomy and Freedom Choice and Control Social Justice Fairness, Honesty & Transparency Long-term trajectories Interconnected Improvement and quality (Source: Cardiff University, 2013) Energy policy needs to take account of public values 13 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future
  14. 14. Biofuels Environmental harm, pollution? Clean, efficient? Waste products reused? Grown for purpose in UK? Conflict with food systems (unfair)? Safe? Security? It’s not just about the technologies, it’s also about the values that they symbolise for people Carbon capture and storage Climate change: science to policy issues14 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future Negative emissions
  15. 15. Presentation title - edit in Header and Footer15 Engaging the nation with science and research: a vision for the future Public attitudes are susceptible to change – public dialogue on science and policy should be an on- going process Source: Poortinga et al (2013) Percentage of respondents having mainly or very favourable opinions or impressions of different energy sources for producing electricity
  16. 16. We don’t do ourselves any favours communicating complex information Mitigation/adaptation, Discount rate, pH, Gigatonnes, Petagrams, Billion tonnes (of carbon, carbon dioxide), PPM, eqCO2, Attribution, Negative emissions, Climate sensitivity, Anthropogenic, Multi-decadal oscillation, Datasets, Urban heat island, NOAA... Switch off words…. Excellent in one context, challenging in public engagement!
  17. 17. www.my2050.decc.gov.uk
  18. 18. We all need to communicate more! - but the direction of travel is good • Academia – engagement now commonly tied to research funding • The media – long history and excellent examples, but also some very bad examples… • Government – open policy making and Civil Service Reform, reinforce need and capability to engage • Wider society are already there and can help the rest of us
  19. 19. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright material. We apologise for any errors or omissions in the included attributions and would be grateful if notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in future versions of this slide set. We can be contacted through enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk . @uksciencechief www.bis.gov.uk/go-science

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