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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research Special issue - November 2005   
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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Title  What do Europeans think?

In June 2005, the European Commission published two surveys with overlapping themes: Europeans, Science and Technology (S&T) and Social values, Science and Technology (S&V). While this was the first ever S&V survey, for S&T it was the third in a series and followed similar surveys carried out in 1992 and 2001.

Science and technology
"The Eurobarometer is something of the Rolls-Royce among opinion surveys in Europe. It is, in fact, the world’s biggest survey in terms of geographical coverage and frequency – we go out into the field every month,” declares Leendert de Voogd, managing director of EOS Gallup Europe, the coordination centre that organises the Eurobarometer surveys.

This new ‘double’ Eurobarometer – which makes it a first – includes no fewer than 32 countries in the 25 EU Member States, the candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey) and the three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland). The combined population is 570 million.  

Samples of around 1 000 people per country were interviewed,(1) representative of the population aged 15 and over. Interviews were conducted face to face and lasted approximately one hour. They were conducted by specialists from a network of survey institutes covering the whole of Europe. “The rule of one institute per country working in its own language is very important,” explains the EOS Gallup Europe director. “Imagine a Dutchman interviewing a Fleming. It may be the same written language, but not the same spoken language. The symbols and references that filter through in the language could introduce a bias in the replies.”

In preparing these two surveys, the Directorate-General for Research drew on the expertise of some 30 social scientists of different nationalities who are familiar both with the issue of ‘science and society’ and with survey methods. This task force widened the perspectives and made it possible to gauge a greater number of sensitivities. While the 2005 S&T survey incorporates a majority of the questions included in the two previous Eurobarometers – thereby making it possible to detect shifts in opinions – the survey on social values benefited from the absolute freedom of starting from scratch with a questionnaire based on the present state of expertise in this field. 

Similar themes are found in both surveys. As to the replies, they both show many points of convergence as well as some subtle and also more marked differences. What is clear is that the majority of those interviewed would like more information on science and technology and seem rather dissatisfied at the way in which they are currently informed about research aims and progress, especially by scientists. Yet research is a field that wins their approval and support. In particular, respondents believe in European research projects carried out by teams from different countries and would like to see them receive more funding. 

Europeans are committed to ethical and social values and fear the effects of too rapid changes in science and technological development that could destabilise some of their living conditions and aspects of their social life. They regard technosciences with a mixture of trust and suspicion. “On one hand, scientific research and technological development are seen as firmly rooted in society and Europeans feel indebted to science for improvements in their quality of life,” explains Michel Claessens, manager of these two surveys at the Research DG. “But on the other hand, they reject the idea of progress decided and acted upon outside of society itself. Almost half of them believe that scientists share responsibility for the negative applications of research.” 

(1) 500 for the small Member States such as Luxemburg, Cyprus and Malta.


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Features 1 2 3
  What do Europeans think?
  Public opinion in the science equation
  Survey methods

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The percentages cited in this issue refer to the opinions of the Europeans interviewed for the purposes of the two Eurobarometer surveys. The Europeans, Science and Technology survey is referred to as the S&T survey for short, and the Social values, Science and Technology survey ...
 

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    Features 1 2 3


    The percentages cited in this issue refer to the opinions of the Europeans interviewed for the purposes of the two Eurobarometer surveys. The Europeans, Science and Technology survey is referred to as the S&T survey for short, and the Social values, Science and Technology survey as S&V. Given the absence of decimal place figures, the total percentages for some questions do not equal 100%.

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