2014 Science And Engineering Indicators: 90 Percent Of Americans Respect Scientists
    By News Staff | February 15th 2014 11:35 AM | 25 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    While each American political party has positions that are determined to undermine science (food, medicine and energy for Democrats, evolution and global warming for Republicans) their constituents still respect scientists overall, even if they don't accept the legitimacy of some fields.

    While most Americans could be a bit more knowledgeable in the ways of science, a majority are interested in hearing about the latest scientific breakthroughs and think highly of scientists.

    The National Science Foundation's biannual survey of over 2,200 people is part of their Science and Engineering Indicators that they do for the president and Congress.

    According to the survey, more than 90 percent of Americans think scientists are "helping to solve challenging problems" and are "dedicated people who work for the good of humanity."

    That's good news for government-funded academia and corporate research and development also, says lead author John Besley, an associate professor in advertising at Michigan State University. "It can help ensure funding and help attract future scientists."

    When only 16 percent of current scientists will get jobs in academia, we don't need more, but the ones currently employed want their incomes to go up, and that means more funding is always needed.

    And it's good news for the NSF when it goes to ask for more money to do science education. Unsurprisingly, not all Americans get basic science. In physics and biology, Americans got 7 out of 9 questions correct. That doesn't sound great but that needs to be put into context - American adults lead the world in science literacy and that literacy has tripled since 1988. Americans also didn't know where Sochi was a week ago, this does not mean they wouldn't know how to find it if it matters.

    Yet American political bodies love self-loathing about science, it helps when they are claiming that education is "dismal" and that American children are being left behind even though they score better on standardized tests than they did at any point in the past. So they engage in deficit thinking about simple facts, such as that only 74 percent of those queried knew that the Earth revolved around the sun, while fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings developed from earlier species of animals.

    Some of the other highlights of the survey include:

    • A majority of Americans – more than 90 percent – say they are "very interested" or
      "moderately interested" in learning about new medical discoveries.
    • The United States is strong in the use of what's known as
      "informal science education." Nearly 60 percent of Americans have visited a zoo/aquarium, a natural history museum or read science sites like Science 2.0.
    • Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed think the benefits of science outweigh any potential dangers.
    • About a third of the respondents think science and technology should get more funding.


    "When only 16 percent of current scientists will get jobs in academia, we don't need more,"

    That's the strangest statement I've ever seen. How does how many scientists get a job in academia determine the amount we need? There are government labs and private corporations that need scientists too, you know.

    I am not sure how many scientists you know but many of them, and their thinking bleeds into public perception, contend that everything except government science is unethical, not real science, etc. It's no surprise that many new PhDs want to stay in college. Unfortunately, they are going to make peanuts until, on average, into their 40s if they do stay in school.

    I absolutely agree that corporate R&D - which alone spends as much as all of China spends on science combined - needs people. But the NSF spends billions of dollars on marketing campaigns to convince grad students they should work at colleges and apply for NSF grants. 
    As a young(ish) scientist who completed his Ph. D. in the last 5 years and has many scientists friends, I have never met or heard from anyone who said that scientists are failures unless they work in academia. My friends and I are well-aware of the pros and cons of the three options of academia, government labs, or corporations... that academia would only takes up 16% seems pretty reasonable given the number of positions available. Would love to see some evidence that either: a) there are too many scientists and "we don't need more", or b) that a majority of scientists feel the way you mention.

    I bet we are all happy to accept your anecdotal evidence as a trump card in the discussion. 
    This was an excellent article,so very well informed,which makes this statement all the more bizarre.We agree.

    All this shows is that people don't have their head up their ass for politics as much as the media would like to think. The media are the ones that don't understand science, which is why they settled for journalism careers.

    More respect for science would hopefully translate into kicking some of the climate change deniers OUT of Congress. They are blocking a good deal of progress toward global emissions reductions. They put future generations at risk for the sake of some agenda or their fossil fuel sponsors. Contact yours and make sure they work in our best interests. Denying human-caused climate change is a dangerous rejection of reality. Please join the efforts.


    Clarify for me, if you would be so kind, as to how the Democrats "undermine science (food, medicine and energy...")" - I may have missed out on something... I only read the news a couple of times a day. Perhaps in the writer(s) attempt to be 'evenhanded' and "call out" both parties so as not to appear to have an agenda, you've invented the notion of the Dems having a desire to "undermine science." Or maybe I've simply missed the stories which 'prove' your point. Please enlighten me. I'd appreciate it.

    I lean liberal myself on most things, so it does pain me to admit that the people who get their hackles raised about GMOs are on the left (or at least the most visible ones are). Never mind that humans have been breeding crops for ages, or that improved crops have have saved enough lives to earn someone ( ) a nobel peace prize. Luckily that hasn't escalated into flame war that is evolution vs creationism in schools (let alone climate change).

    Republicans are definitely better at looking scientifically ignorant though, lol.

    It's just a bigger deal when Republicans do it because more academics are Democrats. President Obama really changed nothing about hESC research, he made a minor modification, yet the "ban" that never existed was supposedly lifted. We never hear about hESC research today because when Bush was president, it was going to cure Alzheimer's, now it is just another area of research that is still illegal the same way it was under Bush, just like it was under Clinton. Bush funded hESC research for the first time, but because it became a political football the 'Republicans are anti-science' meme got invented and it ignored the fact that Bush doubled funding for the NIH. 

    The previous commenter seems to think nuclear science and the anti-vax movement protests are right wing people. It obviously isn't the case. Right-wing states have 1.2% non-vaccination rates and down while there are schools in Seattle with 25% exemptions, and on the California coast one has 75% exemptions. They vote over 80% Democrat.
    I know some progressives that believe vaccination is a bad thing that will endanger their health. They also have many misconceptions about nuclear power and little knowledge of science.
    I know some conservatives that don't believe in evolution and think climate change is a myth. Many of them don't know much about science either.

    Ignorance of science, conspiracy theories, not knowing what the scientific method is, confusing beliefs with facts, this sort of thing is found in abundance in the crazy wings of both political parties. We now have far more money in politics than ever and it is often dedicated to obfuscating the truth.

    I know some progressives that believe vaccination is a bad thing that will endanger their health. They also have many misconceptions about nuclear power and little knowledge of science.
    I know some conservatives that don't believe in evolution and think climate change is a myth. Many of them don't know much about science either.

    Ignorance of science, conspiracy theories, not knowing what the scientific method is, confusing beliefs with facts, this sort of thing is found in abundance in the crazy wings of both political parties. We now have far more money in politics than ever and it is often dedicated to obfuscating the truth.

    Sir,I feel you're pain,you are a sensitive soul who feels he's on the right side of science and is in a huff,a snit,this must all be the damn journalist's fault.Yeah, rotten free press.First the easy part ,where we agree,"Those stupid republicans denying climate change which is bad enough but to deny evolution is unforgivable". Guess what ?you are correct.But the writer then correctly points out democrats have blinds sides themselves,which are quite a bit worse.Food,medicine,energy.First medicine.I loved a naked Jenny McCarthy in playboy ,she still looks great ,but she believes vaccines cause autism,it's been proven not to.This is a beleif of the democrats,if enough people do this infectious diseases will run rappant among defenseless inoccent children.Bill Gates is spending billions fighting polio,you are not finished untill there are zero cases the world over.So it's places with ignorant peasants ,like Afganistan,or Africa where the fight is hard.But no here in the US Dems support those who will not vaccinate.Pure evil anti science.GMO will feed more of the world with less use of chemicals,scientific trials have proven the safety over decades,anti science democrats who want food for the poor to cost more millions will starve without it.You really have no idea what the scientific method is ,what a peer reviewed paper is ,how scientists come to conclusions.Finally ,in1970 I was at the first Earth Day at Columbia University,scientist discovered that certain gasses caused the Earth to warm.That day I knew we needed more nuclear power but the Democrats only wanted oil to cost $5 a barrel with no clean nuclear,both policies sure to bring disaster,along with supporting all the filthy Labor Unions killing use with Mercury,lead,and Uranium in coal.I support some wind and solar but compared to nuclear they produce no power(they are improving and the trend is very inportant but the way pricing is done today wind and solar bring more pollution not less.If all our electricity were produced by zero emmission sources that would not be close to enough.Electricity is 38% of CO2 emission in the US,the rest is from refinning,cement,steel fertiser, and transport fuels.All of these can be replaced by advanced high temperature nuclear Thousands of scientists are working on plants that won't be ready until 2030,you have no interests in this scientific work by Berkley,MIT,DOE,the Chinese,things I read up on every day.Enviromentalists are the worst thing for the Earth because of the luddite view of nuclear power.So just because republican anti evolutionists are wrong,of course they are it doesn't make the anti science stance of Democrats right.Chiropracters are not doctors,neither are acupuncturists,aroma therapy or herbalists(we know a lot of medicine comes from nature we're against those with no science behind them.You think women should get mammograms,no they do not help,neither do vitamins,you want health? eat raw vegetables and fruit along with a balanced diet.Organic has no positive health benefits.These are all anti science positions favored by Democrats.Remember Stuart Brand? The Whole Earth Catalogue a fiery nature enviromentalist,he's admitted the error of his ways and that any serious person is for nuclear power.Especially advanced newer types.Thanks for reading I like these discussions and am very frustrated with Americans with whom I might share some views,deny the climate science,I like the journalist shake my head at both sides but the left does so much more damage.I am very upset that the Monarch butterfly is having trouble because of GMO's that allow Roundup which eliminates the milkweed they need.We need a campaign for people to plant milkweed in vacant lots we do not lose them.The Earth is very delicate,I mean the life on it.I think of myself as a little conservative but I am for reproductive rights(no compramise,legalising drugs,I am for a one payer health system like Canada,so I have some left of the isle views.

    This article is sadly wrong about science denial. Real science denial is republicans who want to gt rid of textbooks that teach evolution, who deny the consensus of climate change and who pretend the earth is 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs played with humans (and make silly "museums" about it).

    On the other hand, if we are talking about GMO food for a single clinical trial on just one GMO food. Now name clinical trials on the safety of multiple GMO foods in a diet and the effect on immunity/allergy or gut flora (which we know affects immunity). The studies have not been done - this isn't science denial - it is scientific skepticism. Show us the safety data in humans, and I will believe it. Until then, don't tell me it is safe because experiments in rats for 6 weeks show no problems.
    As a scientist, I don't trust my health to studies in rats - that is why DRUGS go through rigorous clinical trials. Where are the rigorous clinical trials for High fructose corn syrup - they also have not been done. And don't insult our intelligence by telling us it is just sugar - it is a monomer not a dimer and that changes absorption. Also, after you run things though multiple industrial sized columns there are contaminants - don't try to fool scientists with that BS.
    And energy...where are democrats in denial about the science of energy? Was this just another media attempt to try and pretend that "both sides" are science denialists? Seems like it.

    "...(food, medicine and energy for Democrats,..." Please elaborate:

    The commenter above elaborated for you. Evolution denial has never harmed anyone - sure, it is weird and annoying, but it can't hurt anyone - but protesting Golden Rice is directly causing blindness and death to millions of kids. 

    90% of people can still say they trust scientists because they simply trust all of the scientists outside their weird fringe anti-science beliefs. Fortunately, they fall easily on party lines in a 2-party system so if evolution education dooms America (though America is #1 in science literacy and Nobel prizes) then vote Democrat. If food science and reducing greenhouse gases by using the most emissions-free power in the world is important, vote Republican.
    What I love about science is that it never proves anything, it only disproves. This leaves a world of possibilities for all future generations of creative minds. It does, however, leave skeptics and crazies with the 'that don't prove nothin' hammer. None the less, I am encouraged with the 90% statistic. That's amazing that 90% of Americans can be classified in ANY way shape or form. Maybe it would be a good idea for some scientists to run for political office. (They may be too smart for that.)

    Anyway, I find it encouraging.

    The food, medicine, energy thing threw me off as a democrat too. Perhaps because these things just haven't been at the center of debate. It think the author might be implying that democrats are against GMOs, vaccines and nuclear power. Of course, the vaccines thing is really just loonies, not a significant party platform, the people who are against GMOs are idiots (but admittedly there are a lot of vegan/naturalist-fallacy loving dems out there) and nuclear power is a political issue for dems, not a scientific one (dems don't deny that nuclear power exists in the same way that global warming denialists or creationists argue their points).

    Well, we shouldn't give any side a break - but we do. And that means the side that takes the science community for granted gets away with a lot. When Bush ignored and overruled an environmental report, it was controversial. When Pres. Obama does it repeatedly for years nothing happens. 

    When Bill Clinton and John Kerry killed nuclear power in America they did not claim it was a political issue, nor do any Democrats today. They say it's unsafe despite the science and evidence, just like with vaccines and GMOs. Giving them a free pass we don't give to Republicans, who can't invoke moral or ethical reasons to deny science and be legitimate, just makes science look like political advocacy first and evidence-based second.
    Wow another liberal that thinks they know what
    Everyone thinks. Remember when god said let
    There be light and that was the first day there
    Was no earth and no day in human earthly terms
    The first day was a trillion years. So quit grouping
    Everyone in the 6000 year category
    Also before democrats took over every government
    Job from universities to the IRS to NASA there
    Was real scientific progress and not political
    Science . Case in point email from ipcc nasa
    NOAA all covering their butt on the global warming
    Fraud. They are creepy evil like communist facist
    Obamunist socialist always are

    So concentrate on my typos obamunists instead
    of my points

    "Indicators that they do for the president". Really? You couldn't come up with a stronger verb than "do"? Another "do" appears later in the text; there are also several instances where semi-colons, not commas, should have been used to join simple sentences. Sloppy journalism is sloppy journalism. This was sloppy in syntax and grammar. Shame on your copy editors!

    Science Polls are heavily influenced by Science Marketing to a rather dull mass.
    Science MARKETING results in eventual development of the world at large,
    eg...civilization. Thus, Science is implicated in Global Warming, for instance.
    There's Good Science research and there is Bad Science research...and
    subsequent applications. To wit: Kuhn's observations on scientific revolutions.

    Avoiding the topic of the obvious Sword of exactly
    what the science MARKETERS want. That would be You...Hank.

    Whatever happened to that group of scientists warning via their clock,
    about the perils of scientific developement? They are over at the U. of Chicago...

    I think the real emphasis is SPORTS. People know a lot more about sports than science. Sports is much better funded in most schools than science. Sports are what is on the radio, TV, and in the newspapers. Think of all the great things sports has brought us,,,, how it has improved our lives, and helped make us a better, stronger, more prosperous country!
    What has science done for us????? Electricity, airplanes, the internet, blah, blah, blah. Science nerds are firmly under the thumb of sports jocks where they belong. It's a rare nerd, like Bill Gates or Stephen Hawkings, that anyone has ever even heard of.
    Seriously now, our country needs to educate our children about what is important and what is to be valued.


    Sports, like politics or history or philosophy, is subjective so everyone can have a say. Science does have a right and wrong answer much of the time.  Sports is not a $120 billion government constituency, though, and science is, so that is why so many scientists are politically active. Weirdly, if you add up the funding, Republicans are way ahead of Democrats in the last 40 years, even while science academia went heavily left. So Republicans can't be as anti-science as their rap, or they would hit academia where it counts.