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Asking New Zealanders about science and technology

The 2017 Public Engagement with Science and Technology survey reveals New Zealand's current state of play regarding public attitudes towards, and engagement with, science and technology - so that the Government knows what it needs to work on.

We recognise that it is important to establish a strong base of evidence against which to measure public engagement in science and innovation.

The 2017 survey into public attitudes towards science and technology continues on from previous surveys (2002, 2005, 2010 and 2014) to provide us with trends over time, as well as questions introduced in 2014 to allow comparison with international surveys.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment commissions the survey as part of its wider role in lifting engagement and achievement in science. The survey assists the government to decide where to focus its efforts, and provides insights into the relevance and communication of science, as well as the effectiveness of policies and initiatives related to science engagement.

What do the 2017 results show?

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment commissioned survey of 3,000 respondents was undertaken by Nielsen Research, and was released in March 2018.

The results show Kiwis generally have a high interest in learning about new scientific ideas and developments:

  • 90 per cent see science and technology as an important area to study and useful for increasing career opportunities.
  • Over 90 per cent recognise the importance of science for improving human health, and 86 per cent think it is important for preserving the environment
  • Sixty per cent of people feel well informed about science, with almost half of people getting the right amount of information. The main source of information for people about science was a television programme (69 per cent).
  • People have generally positive attitudes to science when compared with similar international studies in Ireland, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The survey also highlights where science and technology could engage New Zealanders more fully:

  • Compared with 2014 results, public attitudes to science and technology in 2017 are much the same, with the Overall Engagement Index falling slightly from 43.1 to 41.5 out of 100.
  • People are less likely to feel that science is important in their daily lives. Almost a third feel science is too specialised to understand properly, while half feel there is too much conflicting information to know what to believe.
  • Certain groups such as women, those with lower educations and incomes, and Māori and Pacific Islanders are relatively less engaged with science and technology.

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