Climate change worries Spaniards. A vast majority of the population (83.6%) believe that this is a serious or very serious problem compared to 16.4% who consider it little, nothing or something serious, according to the results of the 10th Survey of Social Perception of Science, prepared by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (Fecyt). Consequently, half of the population claims to have changed their consumption habits due to this issue.
The science of excellence is not incompatible with the stability of the research staff
This is one of the main conclusions of the survey, which was presented this Wednesday at the Fecyt headquarters with the presence of the Minister of Science, Pedro Duque. The study also shows some contradictions, such as the fact that the percentage of the population that uses so-called alternative therapies has risen, without scientific evidence, despite the fact that confidence in them has fallen, or that society thinks that scientists do not they are not sufficiently recognized or remunerated, although at the same time they value the profession among the most important. In addition, confidence in childhood vaccines decreases (decreases from 87.4% in 2018 to 82.9% in 2020) although the percentage of people who assure that they are going to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is skyrocketing, while those who assure that has not plummeted to 4%.
Middle-aged woman, the one who cares the most
The majority concern for the environment is translated in some way in that almost half of the population, 47.8%, have changed their consumption habits for this reason: they have stopped buying certain products or have started to acquire others, according to the survey, "for ethical reasons or to favor the environment." The data seems consistent with the fact that two out of three citizens believe that environmental problems are due, "above all, to the high level of consumption."
In this field, women are more active (52.6% changed habits compared to 43.4% of men) and middle-aged people, between 25 and 54 years old, are more aware, with rates higher than 50%. Specifically, the group of women between 35 and 44 years old is the most active, with two out of three women who have changed habits. The level of studies and the size of the municipality in which you reside also show a clear correlation with the willingness to change consumerist customs: the more studies you have and the larger the municipality you live in, the more habits adapt.
The Survey, which is carried out every two years, addresses various aspects related to society's perception of science, such as investment, the role of scientists or the media or the place and use of therapies without evidence scientific.
Thus, this edition, held last year in the middle of the pandemic, indicates that 14% of people spontaneously state (without being given options) that they are interested in scientific issues, a figure that in 2018 was 16%. These percentages of interest move in parameters similar to themes such as Education or Economics.
The Minister of Science, Pedro Duque, has valued during the presentation of the results that the data of interest is "very positive", and has qualified it. "This means that 14% are interested in the scientific process, but many more people are interested in the scientific result and how it is transferred to technology," he pointed out, referring to the fact that interest in science can also be sensed in at least part of that 26% who express interest in the field of Medicine and Health or in the 46% who chose the pandemic as their topic of interest. "There are people more interested in the generation of knowledge and others in the use of that knowledge," said Duque.
Josep Lobera, professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Madrid and scientific co-director of the Survey, has delved into this perception of the minister from the point of view of gender. Despite the fact that the "recurring" result year after year shows a greater interest of men than women in the matter, Lobera explained, "if we see other types of interests, such as medicine or health or the pandemic, where science is also a central element, there is a greater interest of women than men. Sometimes it is a question of what we call things ".
Little prestige, little pay
The survey results also show that society believes scientists are undervalued and underpaid. Up to two thirds of those surveyed have responded in this regard, as explained by Rosa Capeáns, Director of the Department of Scientific Culture and Innovation of FECYT, despite the fact that when asked about the most valued professions, doctors appear first and the scientists in the third (second are the teachers).
Minister Duque has not been able to stop observing the paradox. "People spontaneously say that scientists are not recognized, but at the same time they recognize them. It is the same people [la que ha respondido ambas preguntas]. We have to find where that dichotomy is. "
Regarding the image of science in society, the minister highlighted the majority support for greater public funding (85%) and also that something happened during the pandemic that had never happened in Spain: millionaire private donations for the investigation.
"There is no tradition in Spain of this, but there have been donations of many millions of euros, which had never happened, which have been quickly channeled to research channels in which people were interested," explained Duque, who has taken advantage of the forum to drop a proposal. "A lot of people would think why do we have a box in the rent for other things and not for science." The minister is aware when making this statement that the survey maintains that up to 59% of the population says they are willing to finance projects altruistically, although more than half of them say they have no economic possibilities to do so.
Less reliance on homeopathy, but more use
The study dedicates a chapter to the perception and use of calls alternative therapies, which lack scientific evidence, such as homeopathy or reiki. In this section some of the apparent contradictions detected in the survey are given. Thus, while confidence in these methods has generally fallen (in homeopathy they have dropped in two years from 25% to 17% and in Reiki from 16% to 11%), their use has risen. 19.6% of the population that resorted to them in 2018 has become 23.8% in 2020, although the percentages of people who use it as an alternative to conventional medical treatments remain stable (26.2% ) compared to those who resort to it as a complement (72.5%).
Lobera recalled that here we speak of "trust" and that this "has declined in many areas, also in scientific therapies", although he added that this decrease in trust may have been influenced by "various initiatives [campañas, etc.] that have been launched or the fact that it has been a very particular year. Normally the attitudes of the population do not change from one year to the next, this year they do and we have seen very strong changes ", explained the co-director of the survey.
Finally, the study reveals that television is the majority medium when it comes to learning about science in general (72% use it), followed by the internet (61%), a distance that widens when asked about the pandemic in private (65% chose televisions, 25% the network). Pampa García, chief editor of the SINC Agency and moderator of the presentation, has observed that it is not the small screen where there are more specialized journalists in Spain and then she has highlighted the "important responsibility on the part of the investigating community, which has never had so much visibility".
Minister Duque closed the presentation with a general reflection on science and the way it is communicated: "I think we still have a lot to teach about why scientific evidence is infinitely more valuable than pure discussion. People have to understand. that this is not dogma, that it works much better and that we get much closer to the truth this way. "