Saturday, February 13, 2010

Assessing the State of US Science and Engineering

This is a short interview with the chairman of the board’s Science and Engineering Indicators committee Louis Lanzerotti about the latest report on the 2010 Science and Engineering Indicators. It is interesting that, whether it was abbreviated or not, his analysis of the public support for science doesn't go that deep.

What did you find out about the public perception of science?

The interesting thing is that the perception of science and of engineering remains really very high in the United States.… Those who think it’s a very positive element of our American life … the percentage of the population who believes that is very high. It’s of the order of 75 to 80 percent, versus those who think that it’s a detriment for society, which are 10 percent or less. There have been some blips in that trend up and down by a few percent over the years, but if one does a sliding mean through all that data, one finds that that trend is basically a constant. The American public has a very strong view of the importance of science and engineering for our country. I think a very important point is that scientists rank as high in public respect as do firefighters. They’re second only to firefighters.

Now compare that to the analysis done by Chris Mooney, which goes a lot deeper than that. I still don't see anything here to change my perception that the public's support for science is not based on an understanding of what it is that they are supporting, but based on a PERCEIVED importance of what science is doing.


No comments: