Science and technology policy

Public Understanding of Science and Technology



Along with the positive impact on economic growth, rapid scientific advances and technological change have pervasive effects on social structures and the daily life of individuals. Over the years, they have raised both expectations for increased well-being and concerns about possible risks associated with new technologies and adverse effects on the environment. In such a context, social acceptance of new avenues for scientific research increasingly requires a permanent dialogue with an informed civil society. This calls for efforts aimed at a better understanding of S&T related issues by the public at large that should include a stronger emphasis on scientific culture in the curricula of all levels of education, and the promotion of professional careers in science and technology. Also, opportunities to learn about scientific advances throughout one's life and promoting dialogue with scientists would be an added benefit. The website presents recent activities developed in member countries on the following aspects related to public understanding of science:

  1. Results of surveys on recent trends in public understanding of science.
  2. Fostering scientific curiosity and understanding in primary and secondary education.
  3. New approaches in higher education to attract young people to studies and careers in science.
  4. Enhancing life-long learning about science: museums, science festivals and science weeks.
  5. Promoting dialogue between scientists and engineers and the public

The information illustrates the great variety of ways that member governments go about enhancing public understanding of science. Although there are differences across countries, the public generally shows a broad interest in science. However, an increased effort in making people better informed of the developments in science and technology worthy of their interest is in need. Many of the programmes are targeted at the younger generations, in the attempt to improve and complement the education in science they receive. These efforts range from teacher training to developing better materials, even interactive demonstrations in a truck. Scientific exhibitions and events now take place in many countries. They have become more interactive - with other people, using hands-on exhibitions or the new media. Complex issues that scientific progress raises are best understood through direct dialogue with scientists and engineers. Governments now sponsor programmes that give public the opportunity to discuss developments in science and technology directly with specialists. Wherever possible the new information and communication technologies, especially the Internet are mobilised to aid in the dialogue and enhance the understanding of science. Industry and other private organisations increasing partner with the government in these programmes.