Finnish Science Barometer 2010: Finns have high level of confidence in science

12 Nov 2010

Science enjoys strong trust among the Finns, both as an institution and as named organisations. Finnish science and research is considered to hold a high standard, and Finns have strong confidence in science. These are among the key findings of the Finnish Science Barometer 2010, a study conducted by the Finnish Society for Scientific Information (Tieteen tiedotus ry) that examines Finns’ relationship with and attitudes toward science and scientific and technological developments.

The majority (57%) of respondents say they are interested in science, research and technology. Although the percentage is high, it is nevertheless lower than in the previous study (decline from 63% to 57%). The Science Barometer 2010 is the third study in a series launched in 2001.

Even though Finns still have an active interest in the environment, nature and social issues, their interest has somewhat declined compared with earlier studies. As for sports, the results point in the same direction. It seems to be a clearly gender-specific issue which fields of science people prefer to follow. The most distinct differences concern culture and the arts as well as sports and the economy; women prefer the former, while men are more interested in the latter. Men also take a greater interest in science, research and technology than women.

Young people follow science more actively than older people. Young people particularly follow science, research, technology and entertainment, while older people most often seek information on the economy and politics.

People with an academic background are those who are most interested in science: three in four (75%) say they follow science. Compared by field of education, people with a technical and natural science education take the highest interest in science.

Medicine tops the list

Seven in ten (71%) Finns say they follow medicine and particularly the development of new pharmaceuticals and treatments. Among the top spots on the list are also the progress of science in general and the research knowledge on the state of the environment (66%), followed by history research and cultural studies (49%), information technology (46%), and genetic research and biotechnology (43%). The least interesting field of science included in this study is space research (33%).

Research funding and education and science policy remain the least-known fields of science, even though Finns are interested in following the international success of Finnish science.

Finns receive the bulk of their information on science and research via the electronic media. As a source of information, the role of television and radio (89% of respondents consider at least fairly important) is considered more important than the role of newspapers (77%). The third most important information source is the internet. The significance of the internet and data networks as an information source has clearly increased during the last three years (from 54% to 65%); at the same time, the popularity of other information sources has remained unchanged. This is the third time that the internet’s increased significance has been noted in these studies. Young people in particular rely largely on the web. The big losers are newspapers, television and radio, and non-fiction. Scientific publications and scientific literature have also slowly been declining in popularity over recent years.

Leena Peltonen-Palotie and Esko Valtaoja the most prominent scientists

The study commissioned by the Finnish Society for Scientific Information also investigated how well Finns know Finnish scientists and scholars and Finnish scientific achievements. As the most prominent scientist the respondents most often named Academician Leena Peltonen-Palotie, who passed away in spring 2010. A strong second is Esko Valtaoja, who also held a top spot on the previous lists of well-known Finnish scientists.

Among those who received a number of mentions are Kari Enqvist, Helena Ranta, Pekka Himanen and Ilkka Hanski. Among the deceased scientists, the most often mentioned name is A.I. Virtanen, the only Finnish scientist who has been awarded the Nobel Prize – and also Leena Peltonen-Palotie.  The result received by Peltonen-Palotie shows how widely known and highly respected she is among the Finnish people and that her work continues.

The most widely recognised Finnish scientific achievement is the AIV fodder (a total of 214 mentions), followed by genetic research and gene technology. Xylitol and the cellular phone compete for the third place.

Finns have a high level of trust in science and research institutions and organisations. Among science organisations, universities and institutions of higher education hold the highest place; they are trusted almost as much as the defence forces, outstripped only by the police. Of the science and research organisations mentioned by name, the highest position goes to the Technical Research Centre of Finland, VTT.

The review Finnish Science Barometer 2010. A study of the Finns’ attitudes towards science and their opinions on scientific and technological progress, was carried out by Yhdyskuntatutkimus Oy commissioned by the Finnish Society for Scientific Information. The questionnaire was completed by 1,031 people. The English version of the Finnish Science Barometer 2010 will be available in early 2011 on the Academy of Finland website at > Science in society > Output and impact, and can be ordered from viestinta(at) 

For more information, please contact Researcher Pentti Kiljunen, Yhdyskuntatutkimus Oy, tel. +358 3 3677112 and +358 40 5458011, and Chair of the Finnish Society for Scientific Information, Professor Markku Löytönen, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 9 191 50781.

Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Director Maj-Lis Tanner
tel. +358 9 7748 8347, +358 40 729 6736

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