SFI Barometer shows Irish people continue to trust in science

21 Dec 2021

Image: © deagreez/Stock.adobe.com

SFI’s survey also found a dramatic increase in the percentage of people consuming tech, health and science news.

A new survey has suggested that the trust of Irish people in science has remained strong in 2021.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) published the second phase of its Science in Ireland Barometer survey today (21 December), which asked Irish people various questions around their attitude towards science – especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The survey’s first phase saw 1,048 participants questioned, of which 336 took part in the second phase. Conducted by Qualia Analytics on behalf of SFI, the second phase aimed to highlight the shift in public perception of science since summer 2020.

The majority of respondents (97pc) said that they found science to be fascinating and useful, with 94pc agreeing that it was essential. Trust in science has increased by 6pc since the last survey to 93pc, while trust in scientists has remained at the same level of 81pc.

Trust in medical health professionals and public health experts dipped by a few percentage points since the summer 2020 SFI Barometer, but was still at 85pc. Trust in both public and private scientific institutions saw an average 3pc decline across all measures.

Mental health, news and work life

Nearly half of respondents (47pc) said Covid-19 has improved some aspects of their daily life, while 40pc disagreed.

At the same time, more people (40pc) said they think that Covid-19 has negatively impacted their mental health compared to the previous survey (31pc). As for perceived risk of personal infection, SFI said that the number of people who disagreed that they will ‘probably get sick with Covid-19’ increased by 18pc to 53pc.

The second SFI Barometer also found a dramatic increase in the percentage of people showing an interest in news relating to technology (up 74pc), health (up 56pc) and science (up 52pc), while trust in people’s primary Covid-19 news source has fallen by 12pc.

The report noted a significant change in people’s working lives since summer 2020 with 23pc of those surveyed working from home, which is 21pc fewer people than in the previous survey.

Dr Ruth Freeman, director of science for society at SFI, said that the Barometer helps the national agency to meet its objective of “empowering and inspiring deep public engagement in STEM” by giving it a clear understanding of Irish attitudes towards science.

“Given the prominence of science during Covid-19, it was extremely positive to see that the Irish population continued to value science strongly in their personal lives,” she said. “It is important we have an increased understanding of its impact on our perceptions of science and daily lives.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic