For those of you who feel despondent about science’s chances following yesterday’s Budget think of it this way. We are through the group stages, have conceded little and are now through to the knockout stages where we have everything to play for. We just need to take our chances.
Those of you thinking of an back-up exit strategy may wish to take a look at the latest Eurobarometer on science and technology published this week. This survey of public opinion in the EU was last done in 2005. And you can see the comparative results for the UK as well. There’s a welter of data to trawl through but these are the things I thought of relevance to charities in the UK:
EU citizens feel less well informed about medical discoveries than they did five years agobut the UK public holds up well with 71% saying they are moderately or very well informed compared to 61% across Europe.
The UK is second only to the Netherlands (70% versus 78%) in terms of the number of people saying they have donated money to fundraising campaigns for research – the Europe-wide figure is 39%. It’s 13% in Latvia.
Over a third of people in the UK – and a comparable number across Europe – say that the public should be informed about science decisions. Similar numbers say that the public should be consulted and public opinion considered.
66% of EU citizens say that science is making lives healthier, easier and more comfortable – in the UK it is 76%. But according to the Eurobaromter these results are lower than in 2005 for almost all countries and the EU generally.
17% of people in the UK disagree with the more specific statement that science is making people healthier – it’s 19% across Europe . How strange!
23% of people in the UK say that EU investment in science is insufficient compared to 31% of people across Europe.
Less than half of the UK public feel that science can harm human rights – one of the lowest ratings for all EU countries.
71% of people in the UK believe that the Government should support science even if the work is not of immediate use. The EU average is 72%.
50% of people in the UK say that scientists do not do enough in terms of public engagement but this is below the EU average of 5&%.
And so I could go on. But, lastly, one of the more fascinating results is the level of concern over private/industry funding of science. It is less in the UK than in Europe (48% v 59%) but it sparked my attention for two reasons. First, because I believe the ABPI are about to launch the next draft of their Code of Practice. But also because I heard a fascinating and forensic examination of the issues around publication bias, peer review and conflicts of interest at Monday evening’s Sense about Science annual lecture given by Fiona Godlee, Managing Editor of the BMJ.
I believe that The Guardian will shortly be putting a podcast of the lecture on their website and I can highly recommend a listen. I thought Fiona made an interesting point in the questions afterwards that the issues are less about the funding of science and more about how we achieve a proper, independent evaluation of that work. More over, that failure to do so will, and is, essentially self-defeating.
I can also highly recommend Sense about Science’s recent publication ‘Making Sense of Statistics’. Indeed, it might help you understand the latest Eurobaromoter and my potted summary.
Quick update – here’s how the Times Higher has reported on Fiona Godlee’s lecture on Monday.