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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 06:32 GMT
Public 'must engage with science'
Einstein, AP
70% of UK adults trust scientists to tell the truth
Patricia Hewitt, the UK Trade and Industry Secretary, has called for a greater public engagement with science.

Her statement comes after a public poll showed only 40% of UK adults consider themselves well informed about science.

The Mori poll also revealed that seven out of 10 adults think that the media sensationalises science issues.

However, eight out of 10 people do believe that science makes a valuable contribution to society.

Trusting science

"The UK has an excellent history of scientific achievement; now is the time for greater engagement," Patricia Hewitt said.

To encourage public engagement with science, Lord Sainsbury, the Science Minister, launched the Sciencewise programme at the BA Festival of Science on 6 September 2004.

Sciencewise funding is aimed at organisations to support projects that build the capacity of scientists, policy-makers and citizens to engage in dialogue on scientific issues.

The poll, which was conducted last year, shows that, in some respects, the public attitude is warming towards science.

There has been an increase from 63% to 70% over the last five years in the level of trust in scientists to tell the truth.

On top of this, 56% of adults have taken part in a science based activity - such as visiting a zoo, museum or planetarium - in the past year.

Opportunities available

"This report clearly shows a largely positive attitude among the UK public about science and perception of science issues," said the chief scientific advisor, Sir David King.

"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 regulation."

The report's key findings:

  • 70% of UK adults trust scientists to tell the truth

  • 80% of adults think science makes a good contribution to society

  • 56% of adults have taken part in a science-based activity outside work in the last year

  • 40% of adults consider themselves well informed about science

  • 70% of people think the media sensationalises science issues.

National Science Week in the UK began on 11 March and runs to 20 March. It is organised by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA).

"The BA welcomes the government's call for greater public engagement and debate on science," said Professor Helen Haste, Chair of the BA

"These survey results show there is a real public enthusiasm for science and a desire for more opportunities for public consultation and dialogue.

"We the BA are already working towards developing a new culture of openness in which it is part of a scientist's normal professional activity to explain and discuss his or her work 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."

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