Finns take an increasingly realistic view of science

The Finnish Science Barometer shows Finns have confidence and interest in science, but not an idealistic faith.

Medicine

The results of the fourth Finnish Science Barometer, published yesterday, show that the trust Finns have in science and its ability to solve problems is still solid. As in previous years, the majority of the media reported on the outcome of the survey in a highly positive light, although in reality the overall attitude towards science showed a slightly negative trend.

Pentti Kiljunen, the author of the Science Barometer, says the most recent figures reveal that caution and reservations towards research have increased, but there are no dramatic changes in the general attitude. The economy took a dip, and the media challenged the views of the scientific community on climate change and immunisations and gave a scathing treatment to scientists and their results and the standard of Finnish research.

- Against this background, I could almost find the results of the barometer as a victory in defeat, Kiljunen says.

Small Finland is out of its depth

According to Kiljunen, Finns’ confidence in science has not exactly suffered, but their faith in the competitiveness of Finnish research on a global scale has. Fifty-seven per cent of the respondents regard the standard of Finnish research as being of at least fairly good international standard. In terms of the international competitiveness of Finnish universities, 46 per cent of the respondents deemed the situation at least relatively good. The trend has, however, been a downward one as long as the barometers have been collated.

Many other indicators describing the state of research, such as the one on the development of research or the autonomy of research, also share similar developments. The respondents to the barometer were mostly concerned with the adequacy of research funding and the way science and research findings are communicated to the general public.

Director of the Ministry of Education and Culture Anita Lehikoinen, who spoke at the publication event of the Finnish Science Barometer, said that the results reflect the strong belief of Finns in education. The idea of scientific research as the be all and end all has been ingrained in Finns' minds from a very young age, but the true objectives and content of research are possibly not that familiar to the public.

The Finnish Scientific Barometer is a study commissioned by the Finnish Society for Scientific Information (Tieteen tiedotus ry) that examines Finns’ relationship with and attitudes toward science and scientific and technological developments. The previous studies in the series were published in 2001, 2004 and 2007.

Text: Milla Karvonen
Photo: Veikko Somerpuro
16.11.2010
Translation: AAC Global
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