The level of scientific literacy of Italians increases

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The level of scientific knowledge is one of the indicators most often cited in discussions on the people orientations in science. The Science and Technology in Society Monitor recognizes this indicator on an annual basis since 2007, subjecting Italians three scientific questions now also standardized on an international scale.

The scientific skills of Italians: % of correct answers to some questions (2007: n=988; 2008: n=996; 2009: n=1020; 2010: n=985; 2011: n=1001; 2012: n=995; 2013: n=1005)

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Source: Observa Science in Society, Osservatorio Scienza Tecnologia e Società 2013, www.observa.it/observa/observa

The analysis of the scientific knowledge of Italians over the last seven years shows significant changes. In 2013, the level of scientific literacy of citizens reaches a peak never touched in previous years. Only 14% of respondents did not correctly answer any of the questions, and about one in three is able to respond correctly to at least one of these, more than one in five can answer all the three questions. 60% of Italians knows that the Sun is not a planet, more than half correctly recognizes the function of antibiotics and knows that electrons are smaller than atoms.

As in previous years, the scientific knowledge of Italian decreases with age and increases with the level of education. Only 5% of young people between 15 and 29 years and 2% of the graduates does not correctly answer any of the questions posed in the questionnaire. Compared to the 2012 survey, however, it is interesting to note that triples the number of citizens over sixty and with a low level of education that fails to respond correctly to all three of the questions. In short, the peak of scientific literacy achieved this year is due to the increased level of scientific knowledge of population groups traditionally less prepared.

Since 2002, the Science and Technology in Society Monitor has been the first permanent observatory on the attitudes of Italian public opinion towards research and technological innovation. The observatory is an initiative of Observa Science in Society, with the support of the Compagnia di San Paolo.

CATI survey conducted on a sample of 1.001 subjects, stratified by gender, age and geographical area of residence, representative of the Italian population aged 15 and over.

Observa Science in Society is a non-profit, independent, legally recognized research center promoting the study and discussion of the interaction among science, technology and society, with the aim of stimulating dialogue among researchers, policy makers and citizens.