Public attitudes to science in the UK – the blog

The department for Business and Innovation Skills, BIS, in the UK, has initiated a study of public attitudes to Science and Technology. Now, this is nothing new in itself. It’s the fourth time BIS make such a survey of the British public. But this time, they decided to open up the process by blogging about the progress of the study and reflections from people taking part in workshops, steering group, etc.

In the most recent post Roland Jackson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, shares his thoughts on science and culture: ”It has always irked me that the arts community in the UK seems to have purloined the words ‘culture’ and ‘creativity’ as if they are synonymous with the ‘arts’.”

Would that be true for Sweden as well? What do you think? (Here’s one definition of the ”creative sector” (in Swedish))

As an example of his statement, Jackson points at the European Capital of Culture bidding process:

”For example, the European Capital of Culture bidding process, and that of the UK City of Culture, have no requirement for a science-based cultural programme (though the use of digital technologies is graciously and instrumentally encouraged in the latter to ‘maximise participation and access’). Not that I have anything against the arts, but my concept of culture and of creativity certainly includes the sciences, and they are implicitly excluded in the way these bidding documents are written and interpreted.”

I also enjoyed the post describing one of the workshops in London. The author Kate Mandeville, one of the participating scientists, describes the process, her own worries and the reactions from the audience. For instance, she realised most people don’t have a clue to what peer review is all about! She finishes with the following comment:

”The results of this survey on public attitudes to science will be fascinating, and hopefully will confirm my impression that the UK public value the place of science in our society. However, scientists shouldn’t be complacent – we need to “sell” our profession and our ways of making it credible to maintain this status. ”

/Karin Hermansson

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