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Science Barometer 2023

Public trust in science and research remains high, albeit somewhat lower than during the coronavirus pandemic. This is the result of the science barometer 2023. 56 per cent of respondents trust science and research somewhat or completely, which is comparable again to the results before the coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time, the science barometer also took a closer look at the public's attitude towards the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in programs such as ChatGPT. This revealed scepticism: only 16 per cent of all respondents stated that they trust programs such as ChatGPT to reproduce scientific content, while 44 per cent indicated to not trust such programs in that regard. However, this perception differs for younger people. Among 14 to 29-year-olds, 45 per cent stated that they trust such programs somewhat or completely.

Since 2014, the science barometer has regularly surveyed the attitudes of the German population towards science and research. This enables it to reliably highlight trends and changes in public opinion about science and research in Germany. The science barometer thus not only provides data and facts for the current discourse but also reveals developments in society.

Trust in science and research

In 2023, more than half of Germans trust science and research. While slightly over 60 per cent of respondents in recent years stated that they somewhat or completely trust in science and research, this year’s figure stands at 56 per cent. Thus, the value is almost back at the level of the surveys conducted before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic at the beginning of 2020. The proportion of respondents indicating that they distrust somewhat or completely has slightly increased compared to the previous year, now standing at 13 per cent. As in previous years, differences between different age groups and between different levels of education can also be observed this year with regard to trust in science and research. 76 per cent of those under 30 stated that they trust science and research somewhat or completely, compared to 46 per cent of those over 60.

Trust according to level of formal education

Among respondents with a high level of formal education, 79 per cent said they trust science. This is comparable to the surveys conducted since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the proportion of those with a lower level of formal education trusting science and research has significantly decreased compared to the previous year: from 68 per cent to 52 per cent in the group with a medium level of formal education. Among those with a low level of formal education, 31 per cent stated that they trust science and research, down from 44 per cent the previous year.

Reasons for trust and distrust

Why can scientists be trusted? 65 per cent of respondents cited the expertise of scientists as a reason for this. 60 per cent agreed that the rule-based and standards-oriented work is a reason to trust scientists. 46 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that scientists do research in the public interest and are therefore trustworthy.

More than half of those surveyed saw the strong dependence of researchers on their funders as a reason to distrust them. 28 per cent of respondents believe that scientists are not trustworthy because they often adjust results to their expectations and 19 per cent because researchers often make mistakes. Overall, these values differ little from those of previous years.

Interest in various scientific topics

Germans are highly interested in the life sciences. 70 per cent of respondents expressed a somewhat or very strong interest in topics from this field. Half of respondents said they were interested in social science and humanities topics in 2023. The level of interest in these two scientific fields is therefore similar to 2019, when this question was last asked. Unlike in 2019, this year's survey asked about "life sciences" in general instead of just "medicine" - more in line with the DFG's (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) classification of scientific disciplines.

Interest in scientific and engineering topics is lower than in previous years. 49 per cent of respondents stated they were interested in topics from the natural sciences (compared to 66 per cent in 2019) and 46 per cent in topics from the engineering sciences (compared to 56 per cent in 2019). In previous years, the latter was asked about "engineering and new technologies".

Well-informed about science and research

More and more people feel well-informed about science and research: 39 per cent of respondents say they are somewhat or very well-informed about news from science and research. In 2019, when this question was last asked, it was just under a third. 16 per cent of respondents in 2023 stated that they are not very or not at all up to date (15 per cent in 2019).

Scientists communicate too little

When asked about researchers' efforts to communicate about their work to the public, 37 per cent of respondents believe that scientists make too little effort to inform the public about their work. This figure is higher than in the pandemic years (2021: 29 per cent, 2020: 33 per cent) and thus back at a similar level to before the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Science and politics: getting involved and taking a stand

In 2023, the science barometer once again asks about the role of science in political decisions. As in the previous year, around two thirds of respondents believe that political decisions should be based on scientific findings. 72 per cent think it is right for scientists to speak up publicly when research findings are not taken into account in political decisions, compared to 79 per cent last year.

Less than half of respondents (42 per cent) believe that it is not the job of scientists to get involved in politics. Last year, this figure was 50 per cent.

Trustworthiness of programs such as ChatGPT

For the first time this year, the science barometer addresses the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in programs such as ChatGPT. Almost two thirds of participants had heard of ChatGPT or similar programs before the survey.

However, scepticism is high. 44 per cent of respondents stated that they would not trust such AI to reproduce scientific content A third of respondents were undecided on this question and 16 per cent stated that they trust programs such as ChatGPT somewhat or completely. Trust in ChatGPT and similar programs is more pronounced among young people: 45 per cent of 14-to-29-year-olds showed relatively high trust, compared to nine per cent among those over 60.

Benefits and risks of programs such as ChatGPT

When it comes to evaluating the benefits and risks of Artificial Intelligence, simplification and greater clarity are viewed particularly positively. Half of respondents think it is positive that programs such as ChatGPT can explain complex content of science and research in a highly simplified way. Almost as many (48 per cent) think it is positive that they can be given examples and ask questions when there are uncertainties about scientific subjects.

Above all, respondents are concerned about the potential negative consequences of programs such as ChatGPT. 61 per cent are afraid such programs may sometimes provide misinformation on scientific topics and 59 per cent find it concerning that AI programs can increase the spread of misinformation on scientific topics. Another 59 per cent are concerned by the fact that it is unclear whether scientific content was written by a human or a program. The lack of human control when checking the sources of scientific content is considered as a cause for concern by 57 per cent.

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Individual graphics in JPG format

The results may be used provided the source Wissenschaft im Dialog/Kantar is cited. The graphics are licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0, adaptations of the format for editorial publications are permitted.

Interest in science and research

Trust in science and research

Efforts by scientists

Science and politics

Current topics: artificial intelligence in programs such as Chat GPT

Results from previous years

The results of the Science Barometer 2014-2022 can be found in the overview on the project page.