When persons think about science, what do they have in mind?

About two-thirds of U.S. adults (65%) say science has experienced a mostly positive outcome on society, although 28% say it has had an equal mix of optimistic and unfavorable results and just 7% say it has experienced a typically negative outcome, according to a current Pew Analysis Center survey. More than the previous few several years, close to two-thirds or much more of People in america have witnessed science’s effect on modern society as largely constructive.

Of class, science encompasses a broad swath of disparate fields and developments. What particularly do People have in thoughts when they imagine about science?

A several prevalent themes crop up when U.S. grown ups are asked to chat about science’s outcomes on culture in their possess terms or when they talk about areas of science they adhere to or find exciting. Most distinguished among these are developments in health and fitness and drugs, these kinds of as new treatments for illness. Other, less usually talked about regions contain references to laptop or computer and digital technology, the ecosystem and developments in room exploration. Here’s a closer appear at what Individuals mean when they imagine about science, dependent on a new examination of open-finished survey facts and emphasis group discussions from the earlier several a long time.

Pew Research Heart executed this assessment to look at how Americans explain science in their very own phrases. Examination of survey info will come from a Heart survey of 10,260 U.S. older people done from Nov. 1 to 7, 2021. Open-ended responses appear from an previously survey carried out in January 2019, with target group conversations from a collection of concentration teams held in July 2021.

Everyone who took portion in the study is a member of the Center’s American Traits Panel (ATP), an on-line survey panel that is recruited by means of countrywide, random sampling of household addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. grown ups have a possibility of range. The study is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult inhabitants by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, schooling and other categories. Examine much more about the ATP’s methodology.

Listed here are the questions made use of for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Concentration team conversations were aspect of a broader Middle analysis energy to greater comprehend feeling about science and scientists among Black and Hispanic Americans. Six groups ended up held with Black older people (28 individuals in full) and six groups with Hispanic older people (29 people in all) involving July 13 and July 22, 2021. All focus group discussions had been held just about for 90 minutes with three to 6 contributors in each team. Groups with Hispanic grownups had been done in English or Spanish. Group discussions had been executed by experienced moderators applying a manual developed by Pew Study Middle. Middle researchers systematically coded job interview transcripts for thematic responses working with qualitative details investigation application. Right here are the thoughts from the moderator guidebook and the concentrate group methodology.

Lots of point out health and clinical innovations when questioned how science influences modern society

In a January 2019 study, the Middle requested Americans who stated science has experienced a generally optimistic outcome on modern society to reveal, in their own phrases, what they experienced in intellect. The most common solution – provided by 56% of these asked – referred to overall health and clinical progress, these as condition eradication, healthcare products and new medicines, and most cancers study major to extended lifespans and enhanced general public health.

Health-related science was also top of brain for some of all those who stated science has had a primarily unfavorable effect on culture. Some in this group lamented the wait for cures of serious diseases although others cited considerations about developments in biotechnology, this kind of as cloning and “designer infants.”

These responses are frequently in line with some of the themes that came up through a series of virtual aim groups the Centre done in July 2021. The 12 concentration groups consisted of 28 Black and 29 Hispanic adults and have been aspect of a broader exertion to better have an understanding of feeling about science and experts amid these racial and ethnic groups. The matters that were described in these conversations offer you yet another window into what the general public sees as science.

Requested to elaborate on the spots of science they come across intriguing or enjoyable – or to explore the science matter places they comply with in the news – a number of target team participants referenced overall health and medication. 1 Hispanic male in the 25-39 age team mentioned he paid out consideration to “anything that has been developed in the drugs earth or just for diverse remedies.”

Other folks mentioned development in procedure for precise disorders this kind of as cancer, sickle cell disorder, diabetes or HIV, or the enhancement of coronavirus vaccines. For illustration, just one Black woman in the 40-65 age selection said she was thrilled to hear about healthcare breakthroughs, this kind of as “stuff with heart people that they’ve done. Things with blood treatments and just likely back to blood transfusions and most cancers remedies, items of that type.”

One more Black lady in the 40-65 age group reported, “It’s a lot more about the therapies that they are discovering for diseases and for the vaccines and matters they are coming up with, in particular for COVID and just the various forms of treatment plans that are serving to people today, the distinct kinds of conditions. That’s what passions me most.”

It is more about the treatment options that they are getting for ailments and for the vaccines and points they are coming up with, especially for COVID and just the distinct varieties of treatment plans that are supporting people today, the diverse varieties of health conditions. Which is what interests me most.

A Black girl in the 40-65 age group, talking in a target group

Some connect science with developments in electronic technologies

In the Center’s 2019 survey, a scaled-down but however sizable segment of the community explained the effects of science in phrases of know-how, computerization, workplace automation, GPS instruments or social media platforms.

Individuals in the Center’s 2021 aim team discussions also pointed to developments in technologies, as perfectly as the so-identified as “internet of things” – from GPS navigation to voice-activated assistants – as resources of curiosity and excitement for them. A Black gentleman in the 40-65 age group mentioned, “I obtain all the new products they are coming out with enjoyable. I can say, ‘Alexa, perform audio,’ and she’ll participate in my music.”

Others talked about developments in robotics and synthetic intelligence as an spot that catches their attention. A Black girl in the 25-39 age team mentioned, “The improvements, we have drones flying in the air. Now you’re chatting about drones providing our offers.”

Some individuals claimed they were being fascinated in the techniques electronic technologies connects people today. A single Hispanic female in the 40-65 age vary mentioned, “I feel technology has taken us to a third dimension, the fact that we can talk with men and women in other elements of the environment is one thing we hardly ever imagined we could do.”

I consider engineering has taken us to a third dimension, the reality that we can talk with people in other pieces of the environment is a little something we never imagined we could do.

A Hispanic female in the 40-65 age array, talking in a aim group

Other folks consider about the atmosphere, house exploration and a lot more

A quantity of other areas appear to head when persons imagine about the consequences of science on culture. Some respondents to the 2019 survey gave a broad answer, such as the plan that science provides a improved knowledge of our world. Other folks pointed out a variety of specifics, like improvements in food items security and crop yields, temperature forecasting and air travel. Between the ideas that came up frequently had been references to local weather, energy and the ecosystem, as effectively as the world of area exploration.

Emphasis team conversations in 2021 also touched on a assortment of matters, which include some associated to area. 1 Black woman in the 25-39 age team explained what she uncovered interesting as “the professional journey of people into outer house, and then the study powering the distinct planets and obtaining out what’s further than our galaxy.”

What science means to folks in the Uk

When this evaluation is restricted to the United States, there is some proof that people today in other countries may well assume of similar matters when they feel about science.

In the United Kingdom, government surveys have requested respondents to explain, in their own terms, what arrives to head when they consider of science. In the most modern of these, the 2019 United kingdom Community Attitudes to Science study, 24% of Uk older people ages 16 and more mature associated science with fields of analyze these types of as biology, chemistry or physics. Another 16% referred to wellbeing, medication, medication and health professionals.

As was the circumstance in the U.S., some British isles grownups in the 2019 survey referred to technological know-how (outlined by 13%) or to room, rockets and astronomy (mentioned by 15%).

Alison Spencer  is a research assistant concentrating on science and culture study at Pew Investigate Centre.
Cary Funk  is director of science and culture research at Pew Study Heart.


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