Welcome To The Dark Matter Digital Network

Poll Reveals Rift Between Scientists and Regular Folks

What do the the International Space Station and bioengineered fuels have in common? They're about the only technological advances that both scientists and the American public actually like. On most other scientific matters, a widespread "opinion gap" splits the experts from everyday folks, pollsters at the Pew Research Center reported Thursday. The rift persists in long-running issues such as the causes of climate change and the safety of nuclear power. And it crops up in the news today in battles over outbreaks of measles tied to children who haven't been vaccinated. Scientists say this opinion gap points to shortcomings in their own skills at reaching out to the public and to deficits in science education. On the last point, at least, the public agrees, with majorities on both sides rating U.S. education as average at best. That's bad news for the future, says American Association for the Advancement of Science head Alan Leshner, if Americans want to keep enjoying the benefits of science. "There is a disconnect between the way the public perceives science and the way that scientists see science," says Leshner, whose Washington D.C.-based organization collaborated with Pew on the polling. "Scientists need to do something to turn this around." In an editorial in the journal Science, Leshner called on scientists to personally stem a swelling "unbridgeable chasm" in attitudes between researchers and the taxpayers who largely fund essential research. Mind the Gap In a head-to-head comparison of expert and everyday attitudes, the two new polls asked 2,002 U.S. adults and 3,748 AAAS members (described as "a broad-ranging group of professionally engaged scientists") identical questions about their views on scientific achievement, education, and controversial issues. "People are still mostly positive about science," but compared with five years ago, "we are seeing a slight souring of the views," says Pew polling expert Cary Funk. "When you look across the questions, you are struck by large differences in citizens and scientists." More via NAT Geo.

Leave a comment