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11/07/2014

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Blog

Welcome to the blog, you can read all about the latest news for the sections and take a look in our archive. Scroll through the latest posts below, or select a section from the dropdown.

Sarah Castell, head of public dialogue on science at Ipsos MORI, analyses how some science stories are reported online, using initial findings from our Public Attitudes to Science social media research.

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Do you remember the horsemeat scandal? How about the Russian Meteor strike?  Which of them do you remember more clearly?  Horsemeat, right? I bet you’ve got a couple of horsemeat jokes, too.

Ollie ChristophersOllie Christophers has worked in science communications since graduating from the Cardiff University School of Journalism and Business School. He has since worked for organisations such as the Met Office, Department of Health and British Science Association and these are his views about the impact of the Public Attitudes to Science Survey.

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Hold the front page! One of the top findings of the 2011 Public Attitudes to Science survey was that over 80% of the UK public think they should take an interest in science! With £4.6bn of taxpayer’s money being ploughed into it each year, not to mention the capital expenditure on top, you’d hope 80% would take at least an interest. Now in 2013, we’re about to have another round of questioning on public attitudes to science, but with bigger and deeper cuts to public expenditure looming, the PAS survey needs to provide more valuable insights than ‘the public are interested in science and half want to hear more’.

by Alice Taylor-Gee, Science in Society Manager at the British Science Association

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As the new Public Attitudes to Science survey is underway, I was interested to find out exactly how, or if, science communicators use the data from the previous PAS studies in their work, whether it impacts on the projects they run or helps them target certain audiences. I posted this question to the 2,500 or so science communicators who subscribe to the psci-com discussion list and was really interested to read how varied the uses of the data are.

Doug WarrenFollowing our blog last week about public perception of the information around GM, Doug Warren explains what the recent Wellcome Trust Monitor can tell us about the way people get information about science and medical research. Doug is a Research Manager at Ipsos MORI.

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Almost nine out of ten of us look for information about medical research online - in the Wellcome Trust Monitor eighty-seven per cent of adults and eighty-six per cent of young people who looked for information about medical research said they looked online - and we turn to the internet when we feel ill. When looking for advice about medical conditions, it is very important that the information people access is reliable. While the internet has brought almost limitless information to people’s fingertips, it doesn’t provide any guarantee of quality. Googling the term ‘vaccination’, for example, returns over 35 million results; a huge number, considering that this is an area where people’s opinions have historically been influenced by media stories, which has had a lingering impact on public health.  Which of those 35 million results led people to informative sources?

Jayesh Navin Shah, a researcher working on the Public Attitudes to Science survey 2014, discusses public views of GM.

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Genetically modified (GM) crops – the hardy perennials of science stories – were back in the news last week. The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, made a speech at the Rothamsted Research Institute about the future of GM in Europe, and the potential for the UK to become a world-leader in GM crop technology.

Politicians have long tried to engage the public with the issue of GM, with very mixed success – this Guardian blog post rounds up over a decade of politician’s speeches on the subject. In the media, polarised views are presented and there is much heated debate. So how can policymakers ensure an informed discussion of the science behind GM, in the next weeks and months?

Marilyn's avatarMarilyn Booth works in digital communications within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), enabling policy makers to utilise digital and social tools during consultation processes and beyond. Prior to that, she worked within the BIS Science and Society team. One project she worked on was Public Attitudes to Science 2011, where she ran a blog for the duration of the project.

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I was involved with the previous Public Attitudes to Science survey within BIS, so I’ve obviously got a keen interest in seeing the results this time round.

Will we see greater engagement with science? Will people’s attitudes divide them up into segments, with different and multi-layered attitudes to science?

Karen FolkesBy Karen Folkes, Chair of the 'Public Attitudes to Science' Steering Group and Deputy Head of Science and Society, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

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What do the UK public think about science? Are they interested in science? Do they value it? Do they want to hear more about it? Do they have any concerns about scientific developments and new technologies?

These are just some of the questions explored in Public Attitudes to Science – a series of studies which has been going since 2000 and is now entering its fifth iteration. The data, collected from both surveys and qualitative research, has been used by many different organisations to help measure the impact of their scientific, engineering and educational programmes.

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