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Eurobarometer shows public support for responsible research and innovation

A new Eurobarometer survey launched today (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-1075_en.htm and http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb_special_419_400_en.htm#401) shows public support for the European Commission’s latest strategy to engage the public in science, known as responsible research and innovation (RRI). The survey comes on the day Ecsite launches the outcomes of the VOICES project, a year-long, Europe-wide citizen consultation exploring the concept of waste as a resource. The results are being used to shape the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research priorities with regard to urban waste management.

The Eurobarometer shows that more than three quarters (77%) of Europeans think that science and technology has a positive influence on society. Respondents however also express concern over risks from new technologies, such as to human health and the environment. They want research and innovation to be carried out with due attention to ethical principles (76%), gender balance (84%), and public dialogue (55%). Similar to results of earlier Eurobarometer surveys, more than half of all Europeans are interested in developments in science and technology (53%), but a majority do not feel informed enough (58%).

Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “The results of this survey show that Europeans support the role of science and technology in society, but at the same time expect scientists and politicians to ensure that their values and concerns are taken into account. The next EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, is focused on achieving that balance. We now need to step up our efforts to enter into dialogue with society about science, and must get more young people interested in science and innovation careers.”

66% of respondents in the survey think that scientists working at universities or in government laboratories are best qualified to explain the impact of scientific and technological developments on society, and this group is also most likely to be seen (82%) as trying to behave responsibly towards society.

Most Europeans get their information about developments in these areas from television (65%), followed by newspapers (33%), websites (32%) and magazines (26%). Just under half of the respondents (47%) have ever studied science or technology, either at school, university, college or another location. At the same time, Europeans have a positive view of the effect of science education on young people and the majority of respondents (65%) think that their governments are not doing enough to stimulate young people’s interest in science.

This Eurobarometer survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews in the European Union Member States to evaluate European citizens’ attitudes towards science and innovation. A total of 27563 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed between the 26th of April and 14th of May 2013. For this study the EU averages provided represent EU27 averages, due to the fact that Croatia was not yet an EU Member State at the time when fieldwork was conducted.

Horizon 2020, the next EU research and innovation programme, will run from 2014 to 2020. It has a strong orientation towards addressing societal challenges that affect people’s lives, such as better healthcare, greener transport or food and energy security. Horizon 2020 will feature a specific budget for “Science with and for society”, which will focus on the integration of scientific and technological endeavour into European society. In addition, it will be used to increase the attractiveness of scientific and technological careers, in particular for young people, as well as to address the existing gender imbalance in these fields.