Public attitudes to science in South Africa

SOURCE: South African Journal of Science
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
TITLE AUTHOR(S): V.Reddy, M.Gastrow, A.Juan, B.Roberts
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD), Inclusive Economic Development (IED)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 7558
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/3123

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In a global environment characterised by the growing role of science and technology in our economic, social, and political lives, an international research agenda has arisen to measure and understand how science and technology are perceived and evaluated by the public. In 2010, the South African Social Attitudes Survey included 20 items to measure public attitudes towards science, knowledge about science, and sources of information about science. This household survey was administered to a representative, stratified, random sample of 3183 participants. The findings were analysed through a bivariate analysis, and here we report on South African attitudes towards science and technology, how these have changed between 1999 and 2010, and where South African science attitudes fit on the canvas of global science attitudes. The data reveal a complex and shifting relationship between attitudes of promise and reservation towards science in South Africa. In the international context, South Africa has a unique 'fingerprint' of public attitudes towards science. The strongest demographic variable impacting on attitude towards science was educational attainment, followed by age. Gender had no impact on science attitude. This broad overview also highlights some directions for further research to meet the growing academic and policy interest in the interface between the institutions of science and the public.