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Wellcome, Gallup to Research Attitudes About Science Globally

The ability to benefit from scientific breakthroughs in many ways depends on people's understanding of science and how it affects their health. But there are currently few insights into global attitudes to science -- what people really think about it and whether they feel they are personally benefiting from it.

In the first study of its kind, Gallup and Wellcome, a global charitable foundation that exists to improve health for everyone, are working together to ask approximately 140,000 adults in more than 140 countries to share their thoughts about science and other issues relating to health. The Wellcome Global Monitor aims to inform medical and scientific communities, researchers, policy makers and other interested parties how people around the world understand, trust, engage with and relate to science in their lives. These findings will promote debate and frame proposals for action on how to improve people's engagement with and trust in science and health research.

"The majority of surveys exploring public attitudes to science have mainly focused on high-income countries," says Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture and Society at Wellcome. "This is the first survey that will be carried out across a diverse set of countries and cultures. We want to find out how public attitudes to science and health vary across the globe. How do different communities relate to science? Who do they feel science benefits? Do they trust scientists? How do they weigh up different sources of evidence?"

"We hope this in-depth study will create rich and useful data for Wellcome and the wider community that will help promote debate and improve public engagement in science and health research."

Gallup Senior Managing Consultant Andy Rzepa says that Gallup recognizes that science and its application are at the core of development and improvements in health across the world. "For the first time, we will be able to understand, on a global basis, how attitudes toward science and its impact on health and well-being differ across countries. The study should increase conversations on the subject and facilitate greater dialogue about issues that impact everyone's life," Rzepa says.

The survey will be conducted throughout 2018, with findings set to be released in spring 2019. Adults will be asked about their attitudes toward science, their interest in it and how much they trust various aspects of science and scientists' work. The survey also asks about specific areas of science that are important to Wellcome's mission and existing biomedical research, such as views on vaccinations.

Cognitive tests took place in seven countries to ensure that questions would be well understood across varying regions and demographics, and 50 pilot tests per country were implemented in 10 countries to finalize the questions. The final questionnaire module contains approximately 30 questions about attitudinal aspects toward science, including knowledge of and engagement with science, trust in science and scientists, vaccines and the intersection of science and society.

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