Monday, November 20, 2006

New Pew Report about Use of Online Science Content: Knowledge and Attitude Gaps

The bad news is that the Internet seems to create new gaps in scientific learning. The good news is that the Internet also seems to create gaps in how people think about science.

Based on data just released as part of a new report by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, “[t]he convenience of getting scientific material on the web opens doors to better attitudes and understanding of science.

Each respondent to this survey received questions on one of three specific scientific topics: stem cell research, climate change, and origins of life on Earth. When asked what source they would use first if they needed to learn more about the topic, here is what they said:
  • 67% of those receiving questions about stem cell research said they would turn to the internet first for information on this topic; 11% said the library.
  • 59% of respondents receiving questions about climate change said they would turn to the internet first for information on this topic; 12% said the library.”

And here comes the depressing part:

  • “42% of those answering questions about the origins of life on Earth said they would turn to the internet first for information on this topic; 19% said the library, and 11% said the Bible or church.”

But users of online science information are also more optimistic about the potential of science to make important contributions to society and to improving human life:

  • “48% strongly agree that to be a strong society, the United States needs to be competitive in science; 33% of remaining online users strongly agree with this.
  • 43% strongly agree that scientific research is essential to improving the quality of human lives; 27% of remaining online users say this. \
  • 38% strongly agree that developments in science make society better; 27% of remaining online users strongly agree with this.
  • 22% strongly agree that people need a good understanding of scientific concepts principles to lead their daily lives; 15% of remaining online users say this.”

(Click here for a PDF version of the full report.)

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