Swedes’ confidence in researchers at record high

Press release 4 January 2014

Public confidence in scientists at universities is at a record high in Sweden and there is large support for investment in research, regardless of whether the results will be of immediate use or not. But age is a factor.  It is retired people in Sweden who are the most positive towards scientific progress. However, they are also the ones with the least faith in climate research, whereas young people are the most optimistic. These are results from the latest barometer conducted by Swedish non-profit organisation, VA (Public & Science).

Nine out of ten Swedes feel that the scientific developments of the last 10-20 years have made life better. The most positive are retired people; two thirds of whom believe that life has improved a lot in recent decades thanks to scientific progress, compared to half the population as a whole.  On the other hand, they are the least optimistic about the potential of research to help slow climate change.

“It is interesting that retired people in Sweden are the most positive about the impact of scientific developments to date, as they also have the least confidence in the potential of research to solve societal problems in the future.  This is the reverse for young people,” said Karin Larsdotter, Director of Research at VA, who is in charge of the barometer.

89 percent of Swedes have a fairly or very high confidence in scientists at universities and colleges. This is the highest level recorded since the annual survey began in 2002. Confidence in researchers within companies is 59 percent, a decrease of 8 percentage points in one year. 70 percent of Swedes strongly agree that investment in research is important, even it is uncertain that the results will ultimately be of use.

“Confidence in Sweden is at a record high this year and there seems to be a great belief in the importance of scientists’ work and that research may be driven by curiosity rather than its usefulness. At the same time, we must remember that public confidence is easily be affected by what is seen and heard,” said Karin Larsdotter.

Less than one in five Swedes completely agrees that news about research is usually presented in a reliable way by the media. However, the survey indicates that the more research news that Swedes are exposed to, the more positive their attitude becomes towards researchers and research.

“The results of our survey show how important it is for researchers to talk publicly about the purpose of their research and how it is conducted,” said Cissi Askwall, Secretary General of  VA.

VA carried out 1000 telephone interviews with a representative sample of the Swedish population aged 16-74, assisted by research company Exquiro. It is the 12th survey to be conducted since VA was founded in 2002. The barometer is supported by the research councils Formas and Forte, the Swedish Research Council and Vinnova.

An English version of the barometer is available.

VA (Public and Science) promotes dialogue and openness between researchers and the public – especially young people.  The organisation works to create new forms of dialogue about research. VA is also developing new knowledge on the relationship between research and society through surveys and studies. Its members consist of over 80 organisations, authorities, companies and associations. In addition, it has a number of individual members. For more information visit www.v-a.se/in-english/


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