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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 14 November 2013

Eurobarometer Responsible Research and Innovation, Science and Technology

Why has this Eurobarometer been conducted?

This Eurobarometer was funded by the Science and Society programme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7).1 It offers valuable insight into public opinion and is part of the wider effort by the European Commission to better engage citizens with science, research and innovation and promote responsible research and innovation. Following up to this Eurobarometer, a new activity will be launched in the coming months under the Science in Society Programme, using the Eurobarometer research infrastructure to conduct pan-European focus group research with citizens and stakeholders. These activities identify the expectations of citizens and stakeholders with regard to science, technology and innovation, which will help the Commission to shape policies and set priorities for research and innovation programmes.

How do citizens perceive science and technology?

Consistent with findings of earlier Eurobarometer surveys2, this Eurobarometer confirms that there is no rejection of the impetus towards innovation: the vast majority of Europeans have a positive view on science and technology. The 2013 Eurobarometer ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ shows that 77% of EU citizens agree that science and technology have a positive impact on society, and the majority of respondents in each country think this way. There is however concern about their potential for negative consequences, and the speed of change they can cause on our ways of life. Furthermore, more than half of Europeans believe that when it comes to decisions made about science and technology, public dialogue is required (55%). This is also consistent with previous Eurobarometer surveys4, which indicate that public dialogue is especially desired when social values are at stake.3

The 2013 RRI Eurobarometer furthermore shows that at least half of all Europeans are interested in developments in science and technology (53%), although only 40% say they feel informed about them. Country level results illustrate that levels of information about developments in science and technology are not uniform, with Eastern and Southern countries less likely to feel informed:

There is a strong positive correlation (r=0.74) between being informed about developments in science and technology and the level of innovation performance at national level. However, there is not a strong correlation between feeling informed about developments in science and technology and thinking that the influence of science on society is positive. Societal opinion on science and innovation is therefore not principally determined by ‘science literacy’.

Other interesting findings are that eight out of ten respondents agree that the EU should actively promote worldwide respect for European ethical principles for conducting scientific research. Also, more than eight out of ten (86%) respondents think it is important that scientific research takes equal account of the needs of men and women.

How do citizens perceive the actors involved in science and technology?

University or government scientists (82%) and environmental protection associations (81%) are most likely to be seen as trying to behave responsibly towards society when it comes to decisions about science and technology. University or government scientists (66%) are also most likely to be seen as best qualified to explain the impact of scientific and technological developments on society, with scientists in private laboratories ranking second (35%).

Government representatives are the least likely to be seen as trying to behave responsibly in this area (44%) and they are also very unlikely to be seen as best qualified to explain the impact of scientific and technological developments on society (6%).

Socio-demographic analysis shows that there is a positive correlation between being more familiar with science and technology (in terms of education, interest, informed, family member in science) and being more likely to think for each group that it tries to behave responsibly towards society. No notable differences are found in opinion between men and women and there are also relatively few differences between age groups:

How are citizens informed about science and technology?

Overall just under half of all Europeans (47%) have studied science or technology. Furthermore, while 53 % of Europeans are interested in developments in science and technology, only 40% say they feel informed about them. There is therefore a need to support both formal and informal science education, especially in Southern and Eastern EU Member States where levels of feeling informed are relatively low. The survey shows that there is broad support for science education: most Europeans think that their government is doing too little to stimulate young people’s interest in science (65%). A majority also agree that an interest in science improves young people’s job prospects (59%), culture (72%), and their ability to act as well-informed citizens (68%).

Television is the most mentioned source of information about developments in science and technology (65%), followed by the internet (35%) and newspapers (33%).

What other activities will the European Commission support in this area?

Following up to the various actions funded through the FP7 'Science in Society' programme, the Commission will continue to promote public engagement and responsible research and innovation, in particular via the next framework programme for research and innovation: Horizon 2020.4 Horizon 2020 has a strong orientation towards addressing the societal challenges faced by Europe and the World and actively seeks the input from stakeholders and citizens. Public engagement and 'Responsible research and Innovation (RRI)' are cross-cutting actions throughout Horizon 2020, furthermore supported by the 'Science with and for Society' objective that has been allocated a budget of 462 Million Euro.5 Also, representatives from civil society will be involved in Horizon 2020 External Advisory Boards and in the monitoring and evaluation of Horizon 2020 activities.

As a concrete example of this drive to broaden and widen participation in Horizon 2020, the recent VOICES project aims to involve European citizens in the definition of research priorities in the area of urban waste.6 It was launched in 2013 under the 'Science in Society' programme of the 7th Framework Programme. Some 99 citizen panel discussions, involving a total of 990 citizens in all European countries, have been held and have provided ideas and expectations. The results of the consultation have been fed into the development of the Work Programme for the Societal Challenge 'Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials' of Horizon 2020.

2 :

E.g. 2010 Eurobarometer 'Europeans, Science and Technology': http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_340_en.pdf, and 2010 Eurobarometer 'Life Sciences and Biotechnology’, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf

5 :

RRI will be implemented as a 'package' that promotes public engagement and furthermore supports activities that enable easier access to scientific results, better uptake of the gender equality and ethics dimension, and formal and informal science education.


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