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Goals and methodology

If there was an election this weekend, who would you vote for? What do you think about the current economic situation in Germany? It is common practice to ask people about their opinions on politics or economics. Regarding public opinion on science and research, however, comparable concerted efforts have so far been lacking. To fill this gap Wissenschaft im Dialog started the German science barometer in 2014 to regularly measure citizen’s attitudes towards science and research. The current sponsors and supporters of the Science Barometer are the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

Idea and Goals

In order to conduct good science communication, it is important to understand the relationship between science and the public. On the one hand, this includes knowledge about where citizens inform themselves about science and research. On the other hand, it requires information about how citizens perceive and evaluate science and research - and whether this changes over time. The science barometer has been collecting and publishing population-representative and comparable data on the German population's attitude towards science and research every year since 2014. The survey results are based on telephone interviews via landline and - since 2017 - also mobile phone, conducted in cooperation with an opinion research institute. The results are representative of the German resident population aged 14 and over. In addition to the annually recurring questions, there are also questions on currently relevant social topics with a scientific connection. This means that data on developments in recent months can be made available at short notice. 

The science barometer thus enables a fact-based discussion on the role of science and research in society and what part science communication can and should play. The regularly collected data and publicly communicated results of the science barometer provide various target groups with an empirical basis for their work. On the one hand, practitioners of science communication can select their formats and target groups more specifically. On the other hand, representatives of the science system and science policy as well as funders of science communication are given the opportunity to recognise and react to changes in the attitudes of the population towards science. This is supported by scientific analyses of the data done in cooperation with scientific partners of the science barometer. Furthermore, the data is made available to all interested researchers.

Scientific Advice

To make the data more suitable for scientific purposes and allow better international comparability of the results, the science barometer has been accompanied by an international advisory board since 2017, in which Dr Melanie Smallman (UCL), Martin Bergman (VA barometer), Prof. Rainer Bromme (University of Münster), Prof. Mike Schäfer and Prof. Julia Metag (science barometer Switzerland) are involved. 

The GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences also advises the science barometer on methodology. In order to make the collected data accessible to the community conducting research on science communication, the data sets of the survey waves of the science barometer are accessible to researchers via the GESIS data archive, where they can be requested, retrieved and cited accordingly.