Do Americans Value Science? New Numbers

A recent Pew survey finds that more Americans think scientists contribute a lot to society (70%) than do doctors (69%), engineers (64%), the clergy (40%), journalists (38%), artists (31%), lawyers (23%) or business executives (21%). The apparent statistical tie between scientists and doctors may be explained, however, by the fact that many people seem to conflate the two. When asked for an important scientific achievement, about half referred to a biomedical advance.

The survey contains a great deal of information and is worth reading in full. A few other things stand out to me: 49% of scientists, but only 17% of the public, think American science is the best in the world. The objective numbers are that American science is the best in the world. True, this has been rapidly changing, which may explain scientists’ pessimism. But why is the public unaware of America’s huge historical scientific advantage on the world stage? At the very least, this indicates poor PR on the part of US science.

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