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Findings from the 2014 Public Attitudes to Science survey reveal a more positive perception than was found two years ago. This is the fifth in a series of studies looking at the UK public’s attitudes to science, scientists and science policy.

Ipsos MORI conducted a representative survey of 1,749 UK adults aged 16+ and a booster survey of 315 16-24 year-olds, between 15th July to 18th November 2013.

Compared with the first survey, more people now agree that ‘it is important to know about science in my daily life’ (72% agree, versus 57% in 1988). Also, 90% believe that scientists make a valuable contribution to society.

The survey revealed the importance of scientists engaging with the public. Half (51%) of the participants said they hear and see too little about science, 69% think that ‘scientists should listen more to what ordinary people think’, and 68% would like scientists to spend more time discussing the social and ethical implications of their work with the public.

The role of science in policy was also acknowledged; 75% think that ‘the Government should act in accordance with public concerns about science and technology’.

Of the specific science and social science topics explored in the survey, people feel relatively well informed about climate change, vaccination, and animal research. Most do not feel informed about genetically modified (GM) crops, clinical trials, stem cell research or synthetic biology.

The questions on food and agricultural technology revealed that 72% feel that ensuring the world has enough food to go around is a very big issue today. Only 9% reject the notion that no agricultural technologies should be ruled out to help increase world food production, while 80% agree with it. The study found that 58% of participants agree that GM crops are necessary to increase world food production, while 15% disagree.

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