The Pew Research Center has released a report describing public attitudes toward science and scientists. The report is based on a survey performed in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The survey sampled 2,001 adults among the general public and 2,533 scientists. Overall, the report concluded that the American public likes science, with an overwhelming majority saying that science has had a positive effect on society, government investments in science pay off, and scientists, more than most other professions, contribute positively to society. However, only 17 percent of the public thinks that U.S. scientific achievements rate as the best in the world. Scientists differ, with 45 percent believing that U.S. scientific achievements are the best on the world.
Although the public holds scientists in high regard, many scientists offer unfavorable assessments of the public’s knowledge and expectations of science. Among scientists, 89 percent perceive the public’s lack of scientific knowledge as a major problem, and 49 percent believe the public has unrealistic expectations about the speed of scientific achievements. Scientists also believe the media does a poor job of covering science because they oversimplify scientific findings and fail to distinguish between well-founded results and those that are not. Most scientists (87 percent) also cite funding as the biggest impediment to quality scientific research. However, scientists remain positive about their profession in general, with a large majority saying that it is a good time to be a scientist.
To view the full report, please go to http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1276/science-survey.
back to Public Policy Reports