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Brussels, 14 November 2008

Young Europeans are enthusiastic about science – but still reluctant to pursue scientific careers

Today, the EU Commissioner for science and research, Janez Potočnik, will be in Paris with a group of young Europeans who will propose how to get young people more involved in research and innovation. Science tops the table of young Europeans' interests, but that does not seem to be enough to make them consider a scientific career, indicates a new ‘Eurobarometer’, published today. Young people's recommendations will be given to Commissioner Janez Potočnik and French Minister for Higher Education and Research Valérie Pécresse during the "European City of Science", a public exhibition of 70 research projects, including 20 funded by the EU.

"I'm happy to see that science stimulates the European youth. The Eurobarometer survey shows that there is a huge reservoir of interest and support to science in the young generation. However, the low interest in engineering and scientific studies is a major concern, as well as the gender imbalance. We must reverse this trend because talented and educated "brains" are EU major assets in the current global competition" said EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik.

The recommendations given today conclude 6 months of work undertaken by some 150 young Europeans from the 27 Member States. They include a proposal to organise an event called “European Capital of Science” which would be held annually and rotate through every European Union country, and a suggestion that the EU should increase interest in science & technology by making links between science education and recent scientific work.

The latest Eurobarometer data[1] show that young Europeans (aged 15-25) have mixed attitudes towards science and technology (S&T). On the one hand, they have positive feelings about S&T, with 82% agreeing that S&T bring more benefits than harm. More than half of them believe that S&T will help eliminate poverty and hunger around the world and 49% think that advances in technology will create more jobs than they eliminate.

EU young people are mostly interested in news related to culture and entertainment (nine out of ten). About two thirds (67%) claim to be interested in science and technology (67%) and the same proportion is attracted by sport news. Young men are more likely to be interested in news about science and technology (75% versus 59% of women).

On the other hand, more than half of the young people interviewed said they are not themselves thinking about studying in science or engineering. A slim majority explain that they have already chosen their profession (56%). Half of the respondents (52%) said that they are also not interested in this kind of profession. In addition, 69% of all interviewees agree that science classes at school are not appealing enough. However, in New Member States, young people were slightly more open to scientific studies.

Young Europeans are aware of the European dimension of research: they strongly agree that there should be more coordination between EU Member States (92%) and that the EU, as well as their own government, should spend more money on research (83% and 79% respectively).

For more information see MEMO/08/711

Link to the Eurobarometer:

See also website of the European City of Science

Link to the young people's recommendations:

[1] Almost 25,000 randomly selected young people (aged between 15 and 25) were interviewed across the 27 Member States from 9 to 13 September 2008. Interviews were predominantly carried out via fixed telephone, approximately 1,000 in each country.

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