New Surveys Suggest Canadians Support Research, But Have Misconceptions About Science

By: Sam Garnett

September 19, 2017

This week is Science Literacy Week in Canada; and people can look forward to events at local universities, museums, and libraries geared towards getting the public excited and knowledgeable about science. New survey data released by the Ontario Science Centre to coincide with these events asked respondents about a number of popular science (and pseudoscience) based topics. The results showed that 43% of Canadians think science “is a matter of opinion”, while nearly half (47%) of respondents think the science behind global warming is unclear. These results underscore the need for Science Literacy Week and enthusiastic science outreach and communication.

Today, Abacus Data released the full results of a survey commissioned by Universities Canada to investigate how Canadians feel about universities now and in the future. Overwhelmingly Canadians held a positive view of the role of universities. When it comes to university research, Bruce Anderson of Abacus writes:

“When it comes to the research work of universities, Canadians share a strong and broad consensus that this work is important and merits support by government.

We probed views about 8 different topics of research and found that in every case more than 80% felt it was important that Ottawa support this research. Topics ranged from medical breakthroughs to climate change solutions, to ideas to make cities more livable, and ways to bridge economic and social divides.

Canadians overwhelmingly endorse closer collaboration between Canadian and international researchers, and like the idea of attracting the best researchers from around the world to come to Canada. Almost everyone wants to ensure Canadian research is funded at levels that allow Canada to compete in the world.

Most support research oriented towards strengthening the economy as well as research that is more curiosity based in nature, and helps nurture a culture of innovation.”

The University Canada survey results suggest that the public could support implementation of the Naylor report’s recommendations, which includes increased funding for science, support for international collaboration and recruitment, and reorientation towards fundamental curiosity-driven science. However as evidenced by the Ontario Science Centres’ survey we must also continue to advocate for science and science literacy in the public sphere if we want to build the support outside the science community to solve the complex problems that face us.

This fall we are continuing to push for implementation of the Naylor report. If you want to support us, please sign our open letter here.

Read more about the Ontario Science Centre’s Science literacy survey here.

Read more about University Canada & Abacus’s University support survey here.