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Cancer, Aliens Should Be Among Top Science Priorities

December 1, 2010

Nearly 80 percent of Britons say cancer is the disease most in need of a vaccine, while close to half believe that life exists beyond Earth, according to the results of a poll released Tuesday by Britain’s Royal Society.

The survey also found that 53 percent of respondents would like science to find ways to extend the human lifespan, while
66 percent said that controlling and eradicating diseases should be a key priority for science.

In terms of developing new vaccines ““ after cancer, preventing HIV/AIDS was seen as important by 60 percent of the respondents, followed by malaria with 37 percent.

Britain’s Royal Society, one of the world’s oldest scientific institutions, conducted the survey of more than 2,000 Britons to mark the organization’s 350th anniversary.

Royal Society President Martin Rees said that scientific advancements have allowed modern humans to live radically different from the way our ancestors did.

“Science is an unending quest for understanding and over the coming 350 years our appetite for discovery could see us develop a cure for cancer, a solution to climate change, and even discover extra-terrestrial life,” said Rees in a statement.

“There can be no better way to celebrate the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary than to look to the future of science, built on the foundations of today’s cutting-edge research.”

The poll found that 44 percent of respondents believe in the existence of aliens, with more than one-third saying scientists should be aggressively searching for and attempting to make contact with extra-terrestrial life. However, less than 10 percent wanted space exploration to be a top priority for the scientists.

After health matters, climate change was the second-highest priority for those responding to the poll, with one-third of the respondents considering it important.  That figure jumped to 44 percent among 18 to 24-year-olds.

In conjunction with its 350th anniversary, The Royal Society published a new report, entitled “Science sees further,” which examines the most critical issues facing the world today and the future possibilities and opportunities for science.

The report, released on Tuesday, includes chapters on aging, biodiversity, extra-terrestrial life, vaccines and other topics.

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