Understanding Attitudes to Science: Reviewing Public Attitudes Research

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Slides shown at Science & The Public Conference - 3 July 2010

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  • Suzanne, Tara – we could mention here interviews with expert groups – potentially strengten link to s&s strategy?
  • Suzanne the last two in italics, you might not want to put them in.
  • Understanding Attitudes to Science: Reviewing Public Attitudes Research

    1. 1. Science and the Public 2010 Imperial College, London and the Science Museum 4 July 2010 Dr Suzanne King (PSP); Tara Webster (PSP); Dr Marilyn Booth (BIS) Understanding Attitudes to Science: Reviewing Public Attitudes Survey research
    2. 2. Presentation <ul><li>Background to 2009 work </li></ul><ul><li>Methodology </li></ul><ul><li>Attitudes to science </li></ul><ul><li>Awareness and understanding of science and research </li></ul><ul><li>Science infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>Trust in research findings </li></ul><ul><li>Implications for PAS 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>Next steps </li></ul>
    3. 3. Rationale <ul><li>BIS committed to measuring public attitudes to science (inc engineering) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2000, 2005 & 2008 studies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Previously influenced by HM Treasury’s Science & Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Want to know more about interest in science, science education & specific themes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engagement with science </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trust in science and scientists </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Asked PSP to look at 2008 survey - www.rcuk.ac.uk/cmsweb/downloads/rcuk/scisoc/pas08guide.pdf </li></ul><ul><li>Science and Society Strategy (2009) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Useful time to evaluate where we’ve come from & where we’re going </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Asked PSP to consider usefulness of existing survey instrument and scope for improvement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In tandem with synthesis of results from completed Sciencewise dialogues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>See http:// interactive.bis.gov.uk /scienceandsociety/site/ for reports and detailed annexes </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Method <ul><li>Review of qualitative research 2000/2005/2008 </li></ul><ul><li>16 cognitive interviews focusing on </li></ul><ul><ul><li>specific elements of 2008 questionnaire </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>new questions based on the analysis of the 2008 survey data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conducted in November 2009 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interviews with Chairs of five Expert groups </li></ul><ul><li>Reanalysis of attitude statements from 2008 (by TNS-BMRB) </li></ul>
    5. 5. Science and Research
    6. 6. What is Science? <ul><li>‘ Science’ not ‘top of mind’ </li></ul><ul><li>“ One doesn’t appreciate the science that you are using all the time, one doesn’t think about it. You touch on it briefly when it comes and hits you on the television - those sorts of things. On a day-to-day basis I don’t think that one considers it.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Female, 66+yrs, ABC1 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Science seen as a ‘huge subject’ </li></ul><ul><li>Initial definitions of science fairly limited </li></ul>
    7. 7. What is Science? <ul><li>To the public science is: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>how living things and natural systems work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Science, erm, it reminds me of school actually, being back at school, science lessons. Yeah, different things I suppose. I suppose in science you’ve got biology and chemistry, there’s all sorts of different sciences.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Female, 20-34yrs, C2DE </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>progress for society, more knowledge and new products </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Science, technology, whatever you call it, in my lifetime has moved on. If you just take a simple phone, ten years ago walking around with a brick and now we are looking at things that are matchbox size.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Female, 66+yrs, ABC1 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Science’ at BIS = life, physical, social sciences, arts and humanities research </li></ul>
    8. 8. Must Science be Useful? <ul><li>Distinction between: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>science for a purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ science for the sake of science’ . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Sometimes when they develop these embryos in labs... I wouldn’t like to think that is something where they just let them die just for science’s sake.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Female, 51-65yrs, C2DE </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some support for furthering knowledge without a clear purpose, although anticipated knowledge useful eventually. </li></ul><ul><li>81% agreed ‘even if it brings no immediate benefits, scientific research which advances knowledge is necessary and should be supported by government’ (PAS 2008) </li></ul>
    9. 9. Concerns about Scientific Research <ul><li>Focused on fields where humans or animals might be harmed. </li></ul><ul><li>Removed the ‘mystery’ of life. </li></ul><ul><li>Some found it hard to distinguish between research into the topic and the topic itself. </li></ul>
    10. 10. Science and Research Implications for PAS 2011 <ul><li>When asking about ‘science’ respondents will most likely think of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>biology, physics and chemistry and science at school </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>using science in our daily lives in medicine, ICT, etc </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Asking about benefits must tease out long term as well as immediate </li></ul><ul><li>When asking about concerns about research in specific fields respondents will think: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>only about the topic, not research into the topic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>about what conducting research in a topic might entail </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>both </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Science Infrastructure
    12. 12. Scientific Research: Who does it? Who funds it? <ul><li>Awareness of system of knowledge production very limited. </li></ul><ul><li>Low levels of awareness of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>who undertakes scientific research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>how it is funded </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Guess that research is carried out/funded by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>industry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>government </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>charities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>rich individuals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Universities only mentioned by a few </li></ul>
    13. 13. Understanding of University Research <ul><li>Low level of understanding of the role of scientists in universities. </li></ul><ul><li>Mainly thought of as teachers. </li></ul><ul><li>Research thought to be poor quality/conducted by students. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Because they’re in universities you might think they’re not as trained…., obviously you’ve got to have some sort of training, but not as much as someone in industry or something where it’s very important what they’re doing.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Female, 20-34, C2DE </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Understanding of Regulation <ul><li>Low level of awareness of the regulatory system that governs scientific research. </li></ul><ul><li>Not something that had concerned them. </li></ul><ul><li>Most assumed regulation by a government body. </li></ul><ul><li>Most believed regulations for scientists crucial </li></ul><ul><ul><li>especially for experimentation on humans or animals. </li></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Science Infrastructure Implications for PAS 2011 <ul><li>Questions about conduct, funding, regulation need to probe deeper to assess levels of understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Otherwise false assumptions can be made about findings </li></ul>
    16. 16. Trust
    17. 17. Trust Research Findings <ul><li>Trust in findings of research is dependent on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Channels of communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Validation processes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trust in scientists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trust in the organisations funding science </li></ul></ul>
    18. 18. Channels of Communication <ul><li>Findings not heard directly from scientists. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>None read academic journals. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some mentioned popular science publications e.g. New Scientist </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mainly heard about developments in science from mainstream media. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Of the mainstream media sources, BBC the most trusted. </li></ul><ul><li>TV is more trusted than newspapers. </li></ul><ul><li>More sceptical about newspapers (particularly ‘red-tops’) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>perceive greater political bias and tendency to sensationalise </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. Validating Research Findings <ul><li>Some took information at ‘face value’ </li></ul><ul><li>Value judgements based on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How well findings correspond to pre-existing beliefs and values </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volume of evidence supporting findings </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Where new research seems to contradict pre-existing research, doubt is thrown on the whole subject. </li></ul>
    20. 20. Trust in Scientists <ul><li>Scientists are viewed positively </li></ul><ul><li>Scientists seen to bring benefits to humanity and to be altruistic at heart. </li></ul><ul><li>But </li></ul><ul><li>Many imagined that (some) scientists would hide things from the public or lie to attain their goals </li></ul><ul><li>Scientists would, on occasion, violate rules. </li></ul>
    21. 21. Trust in Science Funding Organisations <ul><li>Image of funding organisations can impact on credibility of research findings. </li></ul><ul><li>Wary of bias resulting from agendas and interests: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Businesses – financial interests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Campaign groups – own motivations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Charities – better trusted but own objectives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Government – great scepticism </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Trust Implications for PAS 2011 <ul><li>How do we ask about trust? </li></ul><ul><li>Not aware of academic research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What does this mean for trust in scientists in universities? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why are scientists in universities trusted? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Motivations? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Perceived lack of personal gains? </li></ul></ul></ul>
    23. 23. Public Attitudes to Science 2011 <ul><li>Good to have opportunity to reflect on strengths and limitations of existing survey design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be wary of making assumptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use simple language </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ipsos Mori appointed for next survey </li></ul><ul><li>Fieldwork occurring July – November (approx) </li></ul><ul><li>Will take on board PSP recommendations </li></ul>
    24. 24. Public Attitudes to Science 2011 <ul><li>Addressing expert group concerns: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Probing attitudes to business & Govt use of science </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Awareness of knowledge production </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Science’s place in cultural experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Will attitudes to university science have changed post “Climategate”? </li></ul></ul>
    25. 25. Going Forward <ul><li>New elements? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Deliberative dialogue workshops </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Role for scientists (British Science Association involvement) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Online presence – extending beyond the representative sample? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work with children? </li></ul></ul>
    26. 26. 2011 PASS will be published March 2011 Questions?

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