63% of Italians acknowledges the benefits of science, even though the concern that science constitutes a menace to the values of society is growing (from 39% to 46%). Scientific literacy and media attention to scientific issues remain stable and the judgement on the organisation and on the discriminating dynamics in the world of research remain critical.
Science and its potential benefits keep on stirring up a wide feeling of trust among Italians (63%). On the other hand, fears for the implications at the level of values are growing (from 39% to 46%); furthermore, opinions on the organisation of research remain critical: over one Italian out of two notices a significant presence of economic interests (52%) in the world of research and six out of ten perceive ambiguity and potential discrimination in the processes that govern scientific careers.
These are only some of the data that emerge from the research Italians, science and the environment. Second report on science, technology and public opinion in Italy, conducted by Observa – Science in society, with the support of Compagnia di San Paolo and published by Il Mulino in the Science and Society Facts and Figures 2009.
The study proposes original data on Italian citizens’ attitudes and perceptions towards science, technology and the environment, data that were collected during 2008 by Observa – Science in society’s Science and Society Monitor: an updated picture on the relationships between citizenry and science in Italy.
The judgement on the criticality of research – as underlined by Valeria Arzenton, responsible for Observa’s research activities and coordinator of the study together with Massimiano Bucchi – are reflected also on the perception of potential discriminating dynamics in the recruiting processes and in scientific careers. 60% of Italians, males included, agrees in judging scientists’ work environment as dominated by male presence.
Italians are favourable to support new funding sources for research, such as the “five per-thousand” formula. Almost three quarters of Italians reckons this could represent a useful instrument for funding research, which allows citizens to award the most deserving institutes, stimulates a greater transparency from research institutions and fosters the participative dimension of the decision-making processes on the funding of research.
Italians confirm their interest in the scientific and technological issues presented by the media. Television and popular scientific magazines remain the most reliable sources of information on these themes, despite the fact that also less traditional media are starting to acquire reliability, such as researchers’ blogs and research institutes’ websites.
A clear novelty is the extremely positive judgements ascribed to the direct testimony of scientists in public events and in science festivals.
Stable, slightly below the European average, the level of scientific literacy, even tough almost one Italian out of two is convinced that “the sun is a planet”.
The full version of “Italians, science and the environment. Second report on science, technology and public opinion in Italy” is included in the volume Science and Society Facts and Figures 2009 (Annuario Scienza e Società 2009, ISBN 978-88-15-12774-7), edited by Il Mulino. For further information, write to email@example.com
The Science and Society Monitor is the first permanent instrument, established in 2003, that monitors the tendencies and trends in the Italian public opinion about research and technological innovation. Promoted by Observa – Science in society with the support of Compagnia di San Paolo, the Monitor was created as an instrument that offers policy-maker, the media, research institutions and citizens a solid cognitive base, comparable at the international level and continuously updated, in order to foster an informed and constructive debate on the issues stemming from the relationship between science and society.
It is conducted through CATI-method interviews on a sample of 1000 cases, representative of the Italian population over 15 years of age, under the scientific supervision of Massimiano Bucchi (University of Trento), Federico Neresini and Giuseppe Pellegrini (University of Padova) and under the management of Valeria Arzenton (Observa – Science in Society).
(Translation by Sara Pascoli)