PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Have you visited a science museum in the last twelve months?

Belen Laspra  

Surveys about public understanding of science (PUS) tend to include into their questionnaires an item about the frequency of visits to several institutions, among them, visits to science museums. Visits to these entities are taken as indicators of public interest in science. In the Spanish case, results of several Eurobarometers and surveys at national level show a gradual increase in visits to museums since the beginning of the century. "Have you visited a science museum in the last twelve months?" looks like a non-problematic question -just answer "yes" or "not"-. But this questionnaire item encloses limitations that can affect its validity both as indicator and as indicator of interest in science. Special Eurobarometers about attitudes and interest of the Europeans published in 1990, 1993, 2001 and 2005; biennial Spanish surveys published about public perception of science between 2002 and 2012; information provided by Spanish Statistical Office; and a pioneering survey, conducted in 2014, about perceptions, interests, knowledges and behaviors about science carried out with university students, have been revised. A review of the results reveals: first, when results are placed in context, questions like "what is a science museum?", "what is a science museum within the framework of the survey?", "what is a science museums for respondents?" become relevant. Second, when the results of "visits to science museum" item in PUS surveys are compared with other sources of information, the tendency to visit museums in Spain tends to decrease. Third, when Spanish university student are asked about their perception of "visits to science museums" as indicator of interest, answers are divided. In short, there are reasonable grounds to raise doubts about the validity of the visits to science museums as indicator of public interest in science.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.