The survey 'Science in Society', carried out by MORI,
also revealed that although eight out of ten people
believe that science makes a valuable contribution
to society, seven out of ten adults think that the
media sensationalises science issues.
'The UK has an excellent history of scientific achievement
but with only four in ten people feeling informed
about science and eight out of ten supportive of public
consultation, now is the time for greater engagement
and dialogue,' stated Ms Hewitt. 'And the public is
keen for consultation to be followed by action on
the outcomes' she added.
The poll, carried out between July and November 2004
and involving a representative quota of 1,831 adults
across the UK, showed that in some respects public
attitude is warming to science. Over the last five
years, the level of trust in scientists has increased
from 63 per cent to 70 per cent. Furthermore, in the
past year, 56 per cent of adults have taken part in
some science-based activity in their free time, such
as visiting a zoo, a museum or planetarium.
'This report clearly shows a largely positive attitude
among the UK public about science and perception of
science issues. We need to continue to develop this,'
says the UK's Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir David
King. 'Science touches our lives every day and a huge
majority of the public is positive about its contribution.
Public trust and confidence in science is generally
high. In order to build on this, the UK needs a mix
of sustained funding, informed debate and sensible
The report marks the start of the national science
week organised by the British Association for the
Advancement of Science. Helen Haste, the association's
chair, welcomed Ms Hewitt's comments, explaining that
the Association is working towards a culture of openness
in which scientists talk about stem cell therapy,
nanotechnology or animal cloning in public forums.
'Then, public discussion can take place in the full
knowledge of the scientific evidence and of the values
held by scientists and by the wider public,' she said.
Professor Haste reminded the government, however,
that talk is not cheap. 'Successful dialogue and consultation
needs a properly funded infrastructure,' she commented.
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