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U.S. science is tops, but most Americans don't think it is, a new survey finds.

Today the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Pew Research Center released results of a survey examining the attitudes of the general public and the scientific community as they regard to science.

The results, collected from 2,553 AAAS members and 2,001 public respondents, suggest that although average Americans hold a positive view of scientists and support the funding of research, they do not share the same perspectives as the scientific community on a variety of science issues.

Only 17 percent of the public feels that U.S. scientific achievements rank first in the world, far less than the 49 percent of scientists who think so.  Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the AAAS, was surprised by the low percentage of both numbers, stating in a telephone press conference today that much of the world considers American science as the standard to seek.  He goes on to note that U.S. science papers are still the most frequently cited in the world.

Among other findings, the study results showed differences in opinions on topics where science and worldviews tend to conflict.  Only 32 percent of the people surveyed believe that humans evolved over time by natural processes, compared with 87 percent of scientists.  

The extensive survey also touches on scientists’ views of the media and education. A majority of the scientists believe that news coverage is at best fair and that the media does poorly at educating the general public.

Also within the study was a quiz for the general public on basic science knowledge.  The 12-question quiz (which Web surfers can take) revealed that people know about science that affects daily life, such as drug-related questions, but less about more “textbook” topics such as atoms and electrons.

According to Leshner, the survey outlines, for both the scientists and general public, some key problems in the scientific arena, and he emphasizes the need for the scientific community to engage more with the general public.

Image summarizing different science fields is by Image Editor via Flickr

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