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science barometer 2019

Science barometer 2019. Photo: WiD

Should scientists get involved in public debates when politics fail to sufficiently consider scientific evidence? Especially against the background of the growing number of researchers engaging in political activism in the context of Fridays for Future protests this question has become subject to intense discussion - and part of the questionnaire of the science barometer 2019.

In 2014, Wissenschaft im Dialog established the science barometer and since then gathers and publishes annual data on public attitudes towards science and research in Germany.

Societal and political involvement of scientists desirable

Three out of four respondents consider it right, that researchers speak up in public when politicians ignore scientific findings. More than half of respondents (55 per cent) think that political decisions should be made based on science. When explicitly asked whether researchers have the obligation to get involved in politics, half of the German public agree. 29 per cent do not consider this part of a scientist’s job.

Trust in science and research stronger than in other realms of society

The results of the science barometer do not confirm a growing distrust regarding science and research. Rather, people in Germany again show high levels of trust in science and research. Compared to other realms of society, science performs markedly better: 46 per cent of respondents trust science and research, while only 27 per cent say the same for business, 18 per cent for the media, and 17 per cent for politics. 46 per cent of respondents are undecided whether to trust science and research. Eight per cent state that they somewhat or completely distrust science and research. Further, close to two thirds of respondents (63 per cent) judge the influence that business has on science as too strong.

Freedom of science is valued highly

61 per cent of respondents think that scientists should be able to decide for themselves what they are researching. At the same time, 67 per cent find it important that decisions about science and research are made against the background of whether they contribute to solving societal problems. A considerable proportion of respondents agree with both statements.

Ambivalent attitudes towards current research and technology

Newly added to this year’s science barometer were questions surrounding the impact of science and research as well as of new technologies. Two thirds of respondents believe that research will help to solve central problems of humanity. 59 per cent find that modern technology makes life more comfortable. At the same time, a comparable number fear that technological development comes with increased constraints affecting people.

Climate and energy still most important field of research for the future

For the question which field of research should be considered most important in the future, respondents could choose from five different possible answers. 41 per cent of respondents would like to see the most intensive research conducted on climate and energy. 39 per cent consider health and nutrition most important. Only eight percent give priority to questions of security and four per cent favour communication and digitalization. The science barometer 2017 showed similar results. From 2014 to 2016 the largest share of respondents had still prioritized health and nutrition with climate and energy placing second.

Great desire for participation and cooperation

59 per cent of Germans state a strong interest in topics from the field of science and research. This is higher than, for example, the numbers for politics (53 per cent) and culture (49 per cent). Only local news rank even better (69 per cent). About half of respondents find that the public is not sufficiently involved in decisions about science and research. For the first time, a science barometer investigated in more detail in what ways the respondents would want to get in touch with in science and research. The results show great potential for science communication and citizen science: Almost two thirds of respondents would like to experience for themselves how scientists work. 57 per cent would like to discuss with scientists what is worth to conduct research on and 52 per cent would like to watch scientists at work to judge their results. One in two (49 per cent) is interested in participating in a scientific research project - in 2017 40 per cent stated their interest.

A selection of questions and responses can be found in the image gallery, all results are available to download.

Downloads

Brochure science barometer 2019 (pdf)

Questionnaire science barometer 2019 (pdf)

Graphics in jpeg-format

The published results may be used under the condition that »Wissenschaft  im Dialog/Kantar Emnid« are mentioned as the source of information.The graphics are running under the license CC BY-ND 4.0, format adjustment for the purpose of editorial publication is permitted. 

Source: Wissenschaft im Dialog/Kantar Emnid, CC BY-ND 4.0

Interest and information behaviour
Interest in societal issues
Feeling informed about science and research (over time)

Trust in science
Trust in science and research

Science within society
Public participation in science and research (over time)
Getting in touch with science and research
Benefits from science and research
Impact of science and research and of new technologies
Benefits from science and research (over time)
Influence of science, business and politics

Research in the future
Most important areas of research in the future

Current topics
Opinions on consumerism and globalisation
Political and societal involvement of researchers
Freedom of science and orientation of research on societal challenges

Previous science barometer

The results of the science barometer 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 can also be found on the project website.

Representative population survey

The results of the science barometer 2019 are based on 1,017 telephone interviews (dual frame of landlines/mobile phones, 80:20) which were conducted from 3 to 10 September 2019 by Kantar Emnid as part of an omnibus survey – on behalf of Wissenschaft im Dialog. Since the data was subjected to post-stratification weighting the results can be generalised to the German population aged over 14 years.

While in English the term ‘science’ is mostly used to refer to natural sciences, the German term ‘Wissenschaft’ refers to natural sciences as well as humanities and social sciences. The results presented here therefore apply for all fields of academic research (this was also stated in a short clarification by the interviewer at the beginning of the interview).

The science barometer 2019 is funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and methodological advice was provided by GESIS – Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences.

 

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