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Brussels, 13 June 2005

Europeans support more money for EU research

According to two Eurobarometer reports published today, 71% of EU citizens agree that collaborative research at EU level is growing in importance and59%consider that the EU should spend more money on scientific research. 64% of Europeans agree that our economy can become more competitive only by applying the most advanced technologies. The same proportion acknowledges the role science and technology play today in industrial development. The survey supports the perception that US is more advanced that Europe in research, with only 12% of those questioned thinking that Europe is ahead of the US.

Research at EU level is widely seen as creative and effective, and a large majority consider that European countries should cooperate more with each other. Europeans expect more investment in scientific research, both at national and at EU level, a more intensive collaboration between researchers in Europe, and more coordination between the Member States, in which the EU must play a key role. Regarding science and technology decision-making, 73% of EU citizens want politicians to rely more on the advice of expert scientists.

The reports present and analyse the data from two public opinion surveys carried out for the first time in 32 European countries[1] earlier this year. They show that Europeans put great trust in science and technology. For example, 87% agree that science and technology have improved their quality of life and 77% believe they will continue to do so for future generations.

Differences between countries can be noted with a general tendency towards more optimism in the new Member States. Compared to previous surveys, interest in science and technology has decreased in some countries but does remain high (78% of citizens). The most spectacular evolution concerns scientific knowledge, which has markedly increased in most EU countries over the last few years.

Some critical messages also come out of the surveys:

  • Europeans tend to resist some technologies. For example, 54% of Europeans consider that food made from genetically modified organisms is dangerous (88% and 80% in Cyprus and Greece, respectively)
  • Although there is an overwhelming recognition of what science and technology have done for society until now, people see also negative impacts, e.g. on environment and employment. A majority of people believe that computer technologies eliminate more jobs than they create
  • There is still a comprehension gap between science and society. Europeans feel badly informed and not very involved in science and technology issues. Efforts still need to be made to bring science and technology closer to people and foster communication between scientists and the public
  • This duality is also valid for the image Europeans have of scientists: people recognise the positive role scientists play in society but there is also some criticism of the way scientists’ explain their achievements and handle information towards the public.

To read the full studies:

[1] The 25 EU Member States, plus the candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey) and the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), i.e. a population of 570 million inhabitants. The reports are entitled ‘Europeans, science and technology’ and ‘Values, science and technology’.

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