New Zealand is a small, developed economy with a relatively narrow agricultural commodity export base. For it to succeed in the global economy of the 21st Century, New Zealanders will need to understand and embrace the values of science and technology (S&T). A quantitative, telephone survey of 800 randomly selected New Zealanders and broadly representative of the make up of the general population by age, geographic location, gender and ethnicity was undertaken to determine interest, understanding and attitudes toward S&T and those who practice it. In-depth, qualitative interviews with 32 people from business, education and science were also completed to explore possible ”hooks” and barriers to wider acceptance and appeal of S&T among these groups.

More than 80% of those surveyed believe that science and technology are important to New Zealand’s future, with 86% believing S&T are important to protecting our environment, 79% important for the economy and 76% important to society. While more than half the respondents believed both S&T were appealing areas in which to work, they were unable to articulate the type of careers offered by science and technology and how they contribute to economic, environmental and social well-being.

New Zealanders associate science most commonly with medicine and health-related breakthroughs, agriculture and research and study. They form their attitudes from media representations and attitudes from science teachers. Many negative attitudes are attributed to school experiences and stereotypes portrayed in the media. Positive attitudes are associated with ”making life better”, and are most commonly held by those who feel science is important for the future.

Technology is most commonly associated with computers, physics and mechanics, inventing, and entrepreneurs. New Zealanders associate technology with the products they use every day, and find it more exciting than science. Technology needs to ”be kept up with”, and most negative attitudes are related to an inability to keep up with the pace of change in technology.

These and other survey results are being used to develop a nation-wide information programme to increase positive attitudes to science and technology in New Zealand. Aspects of this programme and its research base will be described in detail.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Value and attitudes to science and technology in New Zealand

Alan Hull   Ministry of Research Science and Technology, New Zealand

New Zealand is a small, developed economy with a relatively narrow agricultural commodity export base. For it to succeed in the global economy of the 21st Century, New Zealanders will need to understand and embrace the values of science and technology (S&T). A quantitative, telephone survey of 800 randomly selected New Zealanders and broadly representative of the make up of the general population by age, geographic location, gender and ethnicity was undertaken to determine interest, understanding and attitudes toward S&T and those who practice it. In-depth, qualitative interviews with 32 people from business, education and science were also completed to explore possible ”hooks” and barriers to wider acceptance and appeal of S&T among these groups.

More than 80% of those surveyed believe that science and technology are important to New Zealand’s future, with 86% believing S&T are important to protecting our environment, 79% important for the economy and 76% important to society. While more than half the respondents believed both S&T were appealing areas in which to work, they were unable to articulate the type of careers offered by science and technology and how they contribute to economic, environmental and social well-being.

New Zealanders associate science most commonly with medicine and health-related breakthroughs, agriculture and research and study. They form their attitudes from media representations and attitudes from science teachers. Many negative attitudes are attributed to school experiences and stereotypes portrayed in the media. Positive attitudes are associated with ”making life better”, and are most commonly held by those who feel science is important for the future.

Technology is most commonly associated with computers, physics and mechanics, inventing, and entrepreneurs. New Zealanders associate technology with the products they use every day, and find it more exciting than science. Technology needs to ”be kept up with”, and most negative attitudes are related to an inability to keep up with the pace of change in technology.

These and other survey results are being used to develop a nation-wide information programme to increase positive attitudes to science and technology in New Zealand. Aspects of this programme and its research base will be described in detail.

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

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