Readers pick science stories

June 27, 1997

TWICE as many Australians would prefer to read about science than sport or politics, according to a new survey, writes Geoff Maslen.

But while the batting performance of Mark Taylor and the racist political agenda of Queensland's independent MP Pauline Hanson continue to come under intense media scrutiny, articles about science and technology tend to be ignored by the media.

The survey of more than 1,000 Australians was commissioned by Australia's premier science body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. It found that science stories beat crime and employment issues, as well as sport and politics, as a popular media topic.

All age groups, except the under 25s, ranked science, medical discoveries, new technologies and environmental pollution as being of higher interest than sport, politics, crime and employment. Science groups predictably welcomed the findings. The Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies said that science was exciting and media outlets should give it greater coverage.

The Australian Vice Chancellors' Committee said the poll findings were a timely rebuttal to political sloganeering about the alleged remoteness and irrelevance of universities to ordinary Australians.

"This survey exposes the flimsiness of the rhetoric that asserts that the activities of universities and other research institutions are remote from the real world," said AVCC president Fay Gale. "Clearly, the general public considers modern research innovations to be an integral part of their world."

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