Americans Admire Scientists, But Lack Some Basic Knowledge
February 15, 2014

Science Knowledge Lacking In America – Only 74 Percent Know The Earth Revolves Around The Sun

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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While most Americans are interested in learning about the most recent scientific advancements and tend to have high opinions of the men and women behind those breakthroughs, they could stand to be somewhat more knowledgeable about the topic itself, a new National Science Foundation (NSF) survey has revealed.

Every two years, the NSF collects data as part of its Science and Engineering Indicators report, which is provided to the president and Congress by the National Science Board. As part of the most recent report, officials from the foundation polled more than 2,200 people; key findings from their research were presented Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual meeting.

John Besley, PhD, an associate professor at the Michigan State University’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations served as lead author for the chapter of the study covering public perceptions of science. He was also the one who presented the data on Friday.

According to the NSF survey, more than 90 percent of all US residents believe that scientists are “helping to solve challenging problems” and are “dedicated people who work for the good of humanity,” the university said. Besley added that it was “important for Americans to maintain a high regard for science and scientists,” because those positive attitudes “can help ensure funding and help attract future scientists.”

However, when it comes to their ability to answer basic questions about scientific issues, it turns out that Americans still have work to do. Survey participants who were asked nine questions about physical and biological sciences scored an average of 6.5 correct responses, and only 74 percent knew that the Earth revolved around the sun. Likewise, only 48 percent correctly answered that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

The survey also found that over 90 percent of Americans said that they were “moderately interested” or “very interested” in learning more about new medical breakthroughs, and approximately one-third of all responders said that they believed that science and technology should receive more funding.

Furthermore, nearly 90 percent of responders believed the benefits of scientific research outweighed any potential dangers, and that the country appeared to have a high level of “informal science education.” To clarify, nearly 60 percent of US residents had visited a zoo, an aquarium, a natural history museum or a science and technology museum, the study authors concluded.