The Finnish Science Barometer 2013: Finns have high trust in science
12 Nov 2013
Science, both as an institution and more specifically through certain organisations, is highly trusted by Finns. The quality and standard of science and research in Finland is deemed good, and the share of respondents who believe in the ability of science to produce reliable and accurate results is high. In addition, the prospects for science in Finland are viewed as positive.
This information is provided by the Finnish Science Barometer 2013, a survey examining Finns’ attitudes towards science and their opinions on scientific and technological progress. The current barometer is the fifth of its kind in Finland; the first survey was implemented in 2001. The survey published today was commissioned by the Finnish Society for Scientific Information (Tieteen tiedotus ry).
Three out of four respondents reported being interested in nature and the environment. Social affairs in general came in second, with 72%. Two out of three respondents (65%) say that they follow science, research and technology-related issues with great interest. The percentage of respondents interested in science has increased by eight percentage points since 2010. Interest in economy, politics and social affairs has also grown since 2010.
Following certain fields is gender-related. More women than men are interested in culture and entertainment, while men are more interested in sport and economy. Environmental and social affairs are widely followed by both men and women, while men, in particular, are interested in science, research and technology-related issues.
According to the survey, the age group having the greatest interest in science is that of the 26 to 35 age group. Respondents with higher education have the greatest interest in science, with four out of five (82%) saying that they follow scientific affairs. As regards the various fields of expertise, those who have studied science and engineering or arts have the greatest interest in science.
Medicine the most attractive field
Seven out of ten Finns report having interest in general progress in science, research results and inventions. The respondents find medicine the most interesting field of science. More than two-thirds (68%) state that they follow progress in medicine, such as the development of new drugs and treatments, with environmental research a close second (66%). About half of the respondents were interested in historical and cultural research, IT, gene technology and biotechnology, while one out of three found space research interesting.
Policies and funding issues related to science are deemed the least interesting category of all scientific themes (24%), while more than one third were interested in the international success of Finnish science (36%).
Of the sources of scientific information, television and radio are the most important (85% find these at least fairly important). Newspapers are seen almost as important (75%). The Internet was not far behind traditional mass media (Internet, data networks and social media, 69%).
The amount of respondents naming the Internet as a source of scientific information has risen by four percentage points from the 2010 survey (from 65% to 69%), and by 15 percentage points from the 2007 survey. The Internet is an increasingly important channel to both men and women, all age groups and all population groups with various levels of education, while television, radio and newspapers, in particular, have experienced a decline in importance.
The news topics recognised by the greatest number of respondents, making them also those most followed, were human influence on climate change (87% report to have followed this topic at least to some extent) and the recommended dosage of vitamin D (80%). Two news topics nearly as widely recognised and followed were protection of privacy online (73%) and vaccine safety (74%). The remaining four news topics – the Higgs boson, biobank, research project tender procedure and revival of minority languages – attracted considerably less attention.
AIV silage, mobile technology applications and xylitol – the best known achievements of Finnish science
The survey commissioned by the Finnish Society for Scientific Information also examined how well the Finns are familiar with the achievements of Finnish science and scientists. The most widely known achievement was AIV silage. Expressions connected to mobile phones, mobile technology and Nokia came second, closely followed by xylitol. Gene research and gene technology were also ranked close to the top, while Linux as well as cancer research, treatments and drugs were also mentioned frequently.
Esko Valtaoja was named as a significant scientist most frequently, followed by Linus Torvalds. The following scientists were also mentioned by many respondents: Kari Alitalo, Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, Ilkka Hanski, Pekka Himanen, Outi Hovatta, Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, Markku Kulmala and Helena Ranta.
Of deceased scientists, the only Finnish Nobel prize winner, A.I. Virtanen, was named most frequently. He was followed by Leena Palotie with a high number of votes, while Arvo Ylppö came third.
The respondents were also asked to assess their level of trust in various institutions and operators of Finnish society. Finnish universities and other institutions of higher education are trusted nearly as much as the defence forces. More than seven out of ten respondents have great trust in these higher education institutions. Only the police are seen as more trustworthy than the above-mentioned organisations. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is the most trusted science and research organisation on the list.
The Finnish Science Barometer 2013 was commissioned by the Finnish Society for Scientific Information (Tieteen tiedotus ry) from Yhdyskuntatutkimus Oy. A total of 971 people gave written responses to the survey. The report in Finnish and its summary in English are available on the website of the Finnish Society for Scientific Information: www.tieteentiedotus.fi/tiedebarometri.html.
For further information, please contact Pentti Kiljunen, researcher, Yhdyskuntatutkimus Oy, tel. +358 40 545 8011 and Markku Löytönen, chairman of the Finnish Society for Scientific Information, professor, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 500 412 928.
Academy of Finland Communications
Terhi Loukiainen, Communications Specialist
tel. + 358 295 335 068