PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Insights from the Wellcome Trust Monitor Past and Present
A UK survey of public attitudes to biomedical science

Patrick Sturgis  

The four presentations in this panel will explore different dimensions of public opinion toward biomedical science and technology in the UK using data from the Wellcome Trust Monitor, a cross sectional survey of the UK public, (18+) with fieldwork conducted in 2009, 2012, and 2015. First, Nancy Wilkinson will present key findings from the 2009 and 2015 Monitor, emphasising changes in public opinion. The areas considered include public interest and engagement in biomedical science, trust, knowledge and understanding of science. Professor Nick Allum will examine how public attitudes, trust and confidence in biomedical research might relate to more fundamental personality traits or belief systems. For example, do people who are more open to new experiences in life have greater interest, trust and optimism about biomedical research? Some people tend habitually to engage in conspiratorial thinking (they distrust authority and reject scientific propositions because of alternative explanations for scientific evidence). Is this one of the bases for public acceptance or rejection of biomedical innovation? In the third presentation, Professor Patrick Sturgis will present findings from the 2009 and 2015 Monitor which relate to public consumption of and beliefs about complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), with a focus on homeopathy. He will consider public evaluations of the efficacy of CAMs, motivations for use, and how efficacy beliefs relate to other attitudinal and ideological belief systems. For the final presentation Amy Cox will draw on 2015 data which explores awareness and understanding of the major public health issue of antibiotic resistance and how it impacts on behaviour like completing prescribed antibiotics and requesting antibiotic prescriptions. Consideration will also be paid to demographic and attitudinal correlates of public behaviour and beliefs about antibiotic resistance.

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