I recently came across the Ipsos MORI 2014 Public Attitudes to Science study which focuses on public perceptions in the UK to science and engineering.
The survey did not test scientific knowledge but instead examined the social connections between people and science. This approach is useful as it offers an insight into how a person will respond to a specific issue, for example fracking.
There are lots of positives to draw from the Ipsos MORI report; for example 88 per cent of people surveyed think that engineers make a valuable contribution to society, 84 per cent of the people think that science is such a big part of our lives we should all take an interest in it and 55 per cent felt that the benefits of science outweighed the costs.
In Australia a CSIRO study found that 57 per cent of people surveyed had a broadly positive attitude towards science, but 60 per cent of people were more interested in technology than the science itself. However, 83 per cent of people agreed that science was very important to solving the problems facing society today.
One result I found quite shocking in the UK Ipsos MORI study was that 35 per cent of people surveyed felt that scientists adjusted their findings to get the answers they wanted.
The Ipsos MORI report also investigated how people discuss and learn about science and engineering topics, and compared the level of online conversation about science with the level of conversation about the boy band One Direction. Discussions of science were relatively low in comparison, with One Direction drawing discussions numbering up to approximately 15K, and science discussions only numbering up to 1.5K.
However, the main opinion that stood out to me is that the public felt the need for scientists and engineers to be more visible, approachable and pro-active about talking about their research. 58 per cent of participants felt that scientists put too little effort into informing the public about their work.
I recently read this very interesting blog from engenius.i which suggests that people are not motivated by what or how something is done, but why.
Chemical engineers are very good at communicating numbers and facts (the what and the how), but rarely stop to explain, or in some cases even consider, why they do the work they do.
This excellent TED talk by Simon Sinek explains why we should be talking more about why:
Whilst some of us chemical engineers are very good at explaining our work, others struggle. This is something I have made my mission to correct as IChemE president, by using this blog. We need to focus on ensuring that everyone understands the why we do the work we do; that Chemical Engineering Matters.
We chemical engineers need to be clear in saying; “I am a chemical engineer to ensure that all homes have electricity”, “I am a chemical engineer so I can provide people with a clean water supply”, “I am a chemical engineer so I can stop climate change” or “I am a chemical engineer to ensure that everyone has safe food to eat”.
Why not get involved and tell why me you are a chemical engineer in our comments section below?