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1 BEHIND THE NUMBERS: THE MEASUREMENT OF THE PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA Saahier Parker Human and Social Dynamics: ‘Public engagement.

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Presentation on theme: "1 BEHIND THE NUMBERS: THE MEASUREMENT OF THE PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA Saahier Parker Human and Social Dynamics: ‘Public engagement."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 BEHIND THE NUMBERS: THE MEASUREMENT OF THE PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA Saahier Parker Human and Social Dynamics: ‘Public engagement for good governance: the role of the Humanities DST, HSRC and MISTRA, Date: 11 March 2015

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3 You can kill a virus No you can’t. You can deactivate it, destroy it, but you can’t kill it Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place Lightning actually doesn’t care, it follows the path of least resistance, sometimes more than once One false move at the LHC at CERN will kill us all The scale of the work at CERN is too small How then does the public engage, acquire, assimilate and use scientific knowledge?

4 Scientific literacy & the Public understanding of science A public suitably skilled and competent in the acquisition, application and transmission of information (in all fields) -a valuable national asset. The Public-Science intersection has been noted since before the 17 th century. Formal science measurement is more recent, and gathered increasing momentum following the 1960’s, particularly in the USA and Europe.

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6 Evolution of the discourse… Period and Research ParadigmAttribution DeficitResearch Areas Science Literacy 1960’s onward Public deficit of knowledge Measures of literacy, Educational policy Public Understanding of Science 1985 Public deficit of attitudes education Knowledge and Attitudes Attitude formation and change Science and Society 2000 onward Trust deficit, Expert deficit, Public confidence Public participation, Mediators of science, Evaluations of impact Adapted from Bauer, M., Allum, N. & Miller, S page 80

7 Public understanding in South Africa 7 Political AffiliationNationalityEmployment Status Access to governmentAccess to information Educational LevelRaceGender Income High Gini Age Ethnicity HIV Status Culture Religion Social Class

8 AuthorTitleYear PourisPublic understanding and appreciation of science among the public in South Africa1991 PourisPublic understanding and Appreciation of Science among South African Teenagers1993 HSRCOmnibus Survey1995 IEATrends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)1995 FRD-HSRCSA Science and Technology Indicators - Public Understanding of Science chapter1995 Laugksch Test for Scientific Literacy and its application in assessing scientific literacy of matriculants entering universities and technikons 1996 HSRCEPOP1999 IEATrends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)1999 PourisInterests, Public Attitudes and Sources of Scientific information in South Africa2001 Blankley and Arnold (FRD) Public Understand of Science in South Africa – aiming for better intervention strategies2001 GoolamThe scientific and technological literacy of first year physics students: the effects of a traditional school curriculum2001 HSRCSASAS: Biotechnology survey2004 IEATrends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)2003 PourisAssessing Public Support for biotechnology in South Africa2004 Conradie The role of key role players in science communication at South African higher education institutions: an exploratory study 2004 HSRCSASAS: climate change2007 Reddy et alPublic understanding of science in South Africa2010 HSRCThe Public Understanding of Biotechnology in the Media2010 HSRCTrends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)2011 HSRCSASAS module: Public attitudes toward nuclear technology and energy in South Africa2011 Empirical studies of public understanding of science and scientific literacy in South Africa. Adapted from Reddy et al, 2009

9 Recent empirical work: Reddy et al 2013 published: Public attitudes to science in South Africa (S Afr J Sci. 2013) Surveyed participants using a module in the 2010 wave of South African Social Attitudes Survey Survey covered all 9 provinces, race groups and genders, aged 16 years and older, in multiple languages The module consisted of 20 questions across 3 sections- attitudes toward science, scientific knowledge, sources of scientific information

10 Results: South Africa (2010) Reddy et al 2013 Demographic variables differentiate a number of stratified publics in South Africa. Where possible the 2010 data was compared with 1999 data from the HSRC-EPOP survey Results indicate a dynamic range of attitudes to science – both positive and negative attitudes Comparison with 1999 HSRC-EPOP results similarly indicate a change in overall promise and reservation indices in South Africa

11 Results: South Africa (2010) Reddy et al 2013

12 Results: South Africa (2013) Reddy et al 2014

13 So what? What does this mean? What is the purpose of public understanding of science (PUS) surveys in South Africa? What opportunities have been identified and how are the varied public(s) impacted by the contribution of STI to social and economic progress in South Africa? Can the system be effectively integrated and harmonized toward greater efficiency ? Future directions for research?

14 Planned work Conduct empirical research to contribute to the growing series of data on the public understanding of science in South Africa Key dimensions of measurement include knowledge, attitude toward science, interest in science, level of informdness and involvement in science engagement activities

15 Planned work Demographic analysis will inform the development of a segmentation model for the South African PublicS A further output will be the development of the first South African Science Culture Index (Shukla and Bauer) The development of indicators for the measurement of the public understanding of science in South Africa Fieldwork will commence in September 2015 results will be available Q

16 Thank You Contact: Saahier Parker Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) 12th Floor Plein Park Building Plein Street Cape Town 8001 South Africa Tel: Cell: +27 (0) Skype: Saahier


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