Irish trust in science and scientists stayed strong in 2021, SFI finds

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Science Foundation Ireland’s Science in Ireland Barometer findings reveal the attitudes of the Irish public towards science

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21 December 2021 | 0

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has published the second phase of its Science in Ireland Barometer findings, which reveal the attitudes of the Irish public towards science.

It found public attitudes towards science remain extremely positive, with a most people indicating that science is fascinating (97%), useful (97%) and essential (94%).

Irish trust in science has also remained strong in 2021, with the majority continuing to trust both science (93%) and scientists (81%).

 

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The research findings show the ways in which the Irish population’s science attitudes have shifted since the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020, when the first phase of this research was conducted.

Notably, this second phase of the research highlights that more people agreed (47%) that the Covid-19 situation has improved some aspects of their daily life’ compared to those who disagreed (40%).

Despite this, the research also shows that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a continued negative effect on people’s mental health, with 9% more people (40%) reporting that their mental health has been negatively affected, compared to 2020 (31%).

News consumption continues to be high among respondents, but there has been a major change in the public’s interest in different types of news. The research shows that there has been a dramatic increase in those surveyed indicating an interest in ‘technology news’ (+74%; 83% overall), ‘health news’ (+56%; 64% overall) and science news (+52%; 59% overall). Since 2020, there has also been a decrease (-13%; 27%) in the number of people who completely trust their primary Covid-19 news source.

Director of Science for Society, SFI, Dr Ruth Freeman, said: “The Barometer offers us the opportunity to assess progress on our goal of empowering and inspiring deep public engagement with STEM – a key objective within Shaping Our Future: Science Foundation Ireland’s Strategy 2025. Having a clear understanding of attitudes to science is invaluable to inform and shape how our work meets the needs of the people of Ireland.

“It is also extremely important to understand the public’s perception of how they value science in their everyday lives and their own scientific capabilities, so we can adapt as required. Given the prominence of science during Covid-19, it was extremely positive to see that the Irish population continued to value science strongly in their personal lives. In 2021, an even greater majority of people (+5%) agreed that it is important for them personally to be informed about science (91%). As we continue to live through the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important we have an increased understanding of its impact on our perceptions of science and daily lives.”

In addition, the research shows that there has been a notable shift in peoples working lives since 2020, with 21% fewer people working from home (23%).

The second phase of the SFI Science in Ireland Barometer 2020 can be accessed here.

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