Portuguese society and science

January 20, 2003

Brussels, 17 Jan 2003

A recent study carried out by a three sociologists from the Portuguese centre for research and studies in sociology (CIES), has identified a typology of how Portuguese society relates to science.

The researchers, António Firmino da Costa, Patrícia Ávila and Sandra Mateus surveyed a representative cross section of Portuguese society, between the ages of 15 and 74 years. The questionnaire focused on how people become knowledgeable about science.

The overall findings of the survey suggest a strong link with the use of science throughout life within the social context of work, study, civic action, leisure and sociability. They also indicate a strong relationship between science and the educational system, in particular, with its higher levels.

However, despite these predominant tendencies, there are examples within the study that show significant close links between science and almost all social categories. This stresses the need for access to science through structurally accessible opportunities, as well as a need to promote science to different sections of the public through specific and appropriate avenues of communication.

The findings identified seven profile groups, four of which represented a third of the population under review. The four groups are referred to as 'committed', 'insiders', 'beginners' and 'self-taught'. They are described by the study as having a high level of interest in scientific matters.

The study shows that the 'committed' group, representing little over two per cent and the 'insiders' group at around nine per cent of the population, use their scientific knowledge actively both in their personal and professional lives and are very keen to improve it.

Similarly, the 'beginners' group and the 'self-taught' also show a willingness to improve their scientific know-how. However, their level of actual knowledge is considerably lower that the first two groups. While the 'beginners group', at eight per cent, acquires scientific knowledge through a formal schooling, the 'self-taught', at almost 18 per cent, appropriate their knowledge of science through informal activities.

The study also reveals the other end of the spectrum in the three remaining groups, 'indifferent', 'benevolent' and 'withdrawn', which represent almost two thirds of the population studied: They can be characterised as having minimal knowledge and lacking interest in acquiring knowledge in scientific matters.

The 'indifferent' category at almost 23 per cent along with the 'withdrawn' at around12 per cent are revealed as holding very negative opinions of scientific developments, as well as placing no importance in scientific magazines. In contrast, while 'benevolent', the largest group at 28 per cent, have a low level of knowledge, they do hold a more favourable outlook on science and are willing to give their opinion about science publications.

For further information, please contact:
António Firmino da Costa
Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia - Inst. Super. de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa
Tel: +351-21 790 30 77
E-mail: antonio.costa@iscte.pt

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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