In partnership with Ipsos Mori and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) we worked on the Public Attitudes to Science survey to find out what the public really think about science.

The results of the Public Attitudes to Science Survey 2014 are available here. There are some very positive messages that came out of the survey:

  • The UK public are as interested and enthusiastic about science as they have ever been in the last 25 years
  • Science is increasingly seen as important to the economy and the public widely support continued government funding for science. Three-quarters (76%) think scientific research makes a direct contribution to economic growth in the UK
  • The public think it is important for them to know about science and want to hear more from scientists, government and regulators
  • Nine-in-ten (91%) agree that young people’s interest in science is essential for our future prosperity
  • The public continue to support government funding of science. Eight-in-ten (79%) agree that, even if it brings no immediate benefits, scientific research which advances knowledge should be funded by the Government. Two-thirds (65%) also disagree that this funding should be cut because the money can be better spent elsewhere
  • 81% of people agree that “science will make people’s lives easier” and over half (55%) think that the benefits of science outweigh any harmful effects
  • Half (51%) think the science they learnt at school has been useful in their everyday lives, while a very encouraging three-quarters (76%) think this of the maths they learnt at school.
It's also clearer from this survey that science is increasingly seen as part of UK culture, we found that people of all ages are treating science activities as part of a wider range of cultural activities.

There are also some messages we’ve heard before:

  • People want the public to be involved but not everyone wants to get involved themselves, and they still value the role of experts 
  • Individual scientists are highly trusted, increasingly so, but this does not necessarily mean their work, or their institutions or funders are trusted; trust depends on the institution scientists work for and perceptions of their funders 
  • Traditional media remains the most common source of information, but young people are using digital more.

And some that we need to explore further:
  • There are established contentious issues (such as GM), and emerging issues that may become more contentious as media coverage increases (such as shale gas) 
  • Scientists and engineers are highly respected but people still do not know much about how scientists work 
  • There also appears to be low trust in science journalism
  • For the first time, we’ve used social listening and modular parts of the survey looking at attitudes to some of the Eight Great Technologies, such as big data, agricultural technologies, robot and emerging energy technologies. View the full report to find out more about these and the rest of the results.