SFI report shows over half of public feel uninformed about STEM

8 Oct 2015

Cara Joyce (8) from Ballinteer at the launch of Science Week 2.0 Design Your Future. Image: Naoise Culhane

At the launch of Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Science Week, the organisation released findings from its new public research study, which shows that 51pc of those surveyed felt uninformed about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The SFI report, SFI Science in Ireland Barometer, produced some predictable statistics, including the fact that 85pc of those surveyed believe STEM will increase work opportunities for the next generation.

Meanwhile, actual engagement with STEM research appears to have increased, with 25pc having attempted to find information on science in the past year.

However, there does appear to be something of a barrier between the perception of STEM and the general public, as 70pc of those surveyed believe STEM is too specialised for them to understand.

More worrying is the finding that just over half (51pc) of the general public feel they are uninformed about STEM topics. Slightly more (58pc) say they are interested in R&D in STEM.

The most distrust felt towards STEM in general, the report found, was in relation to energy pylons and wind turbines close to peoples’ homes, and the research and development of genetically modified foods.

Over 800 events planned for Science Week

Despite this, the vast majority (90pc) believe that young people’s interest in science and technology is essential for our future prosperity, with 84pc of respondents saying that Government investment in STEM R&D is worthwhile.

The launch of Science Week 2.0 Design Your Future, taking place from 8-15 November, revealed that the week-long STEM event will include, among 800 events, a pop-up exhibit on the world of bees in Limerick, and an interactive show that takes the audience from coloured flames to floating ones as part of physics and explosive chemistry demonstrations.

“The SFI Science in Ireland Barometer highlights the importance of science graduates and careers, with nine-in-10 agreeing that young people’s interest in science and technology is essential for our future prosperity,” director-general of SFI, Prof Mark Ferguson, said.

“Science Week plays a very significant role in attracting future science graduates.  I would encourage every person to check out the events happening in their area, because science isn’t just about the classroom – it’s for everyone to enjoy, explore and investigate together.”

Trust and ethics in science

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic