Brussels, 02 April 2002
The public expects too much from scientists, but scientists are not very adept at getting their message across. These are two of the findings from a survey carried out by MORI (Market and opinion research international) in the UK, which highlights the chasm between the perception of science between the public and the scientific community.
According to the survey, 61 per cent of the public expect science 'to provide 100 per cent guarantees about the safety of medicine', something which scientists claim they either cannot or should not deliver. On the other hand, scientists' poor handling of publicising their work is shown by the fact that only seven per cent of them spontaneously think of the media as an important group to communicate with. Some two thirds of scientists admitted to not having spoken to the media in the previous year.
The public also felt that scientists needed to improve their communication skills. Some 85 per cent of the public said that the scientists needed to improve the way they communicate their research findings to the public through the media. This is particularly important as 90 per cent of respondents relied on the media for information about science, with 65 per cent specifically highlighting television as their source.
Despite the clear gap between the public and the scientific community, the public remains largely supportive of science. Some 87 per cent of respondents felt that science had a positive impact on society, with only three per cent disagreeing.
The results of the survey served to underline the need for centres which bring together the public, the media and the scientific community. One such new centre, the Science media centre, opens on 2 April in the UK, to help science become more accessible to the public and to help the media become more accessible to scientists. The centre has been set up by scientists in recognition of their need to convey better the results of their work and to get the public to be more interested and supportive of their work.
'On the one hand we have a public with an apparently poor grasp of the way science works and on the other hand we have many scientists who are equally poor at engaging with the media,' said the head of the new centre, Fiona Fox.
For further information, please consult the following web address: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org