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Majority of Europeans support increased EU research budget, reveals survey

Around 60 per cent of European citizens believe that the EU should spend more on scientific research, according to the results of two new Eurobarometer reports on the public's perception of science and technology and the ethics that underpin them. The surveys were conducted f...

Around 60 per cent of European citizens believe that the EU should spend more on scientific research, according to the results of two new Eurobarometer reports on the public's perception of science and technology and the ethics that underpin them. The surveys were conducted face-to-face in people's homes between 3 January and 15 February this year, and covered all 25 EU Member States, the candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey) and three of the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland). Generally, the surveys revealed a 'very positive and optimistic perception of what science and technology can actually do for humanity in terms of medical research, improvement of the quality of life, as well as the opportunities for future generations.' Indeed, 87 per cent of respondents said that science and technology have improved their quality of life, while 77 per cent believe that they will continue to do so for future generations. Less encouraging, however, was the finding that many Europeans consider themselves poorly informed on issues concerning science and technology, and the survey identified a link between a lack of information and a low interest in scientific issues. 'Efforts must namely be made in order to bring science and technology closer to certain categories of people who are less exposed to the scientific field, and who therefore have a more sceptic perception of science and technology,' reads the report 'Europeans, Science and Technology'. 'These categories are more often women, older people and those with a lower level of education.' When it comes to the ethical concerns surrounding scientific progress, both reports pick up on apparent contradictions in people's attitudes. For example, while people express a certain fear of scientists, due to the power that comes with their high degree of knowledge and a concern that research will cross certain ethical and moral boundaries, they nevertheless 'want to allow scientists to work freely without letting the apprehensions of potential risks deriving from further research slow them down.' The report therefore concludes that: 'In this sense, it seems that Europeans would like to impose a balance between ethics and scientific progress, which will certainly demand much effort on behalf of the scientific community as well as the public authorities who are expected to impose the legal basis of such a control through ethics.' On specific issues, Europeans appear to be surprisingly open to further research and development, given the controversy surrounding some of the topics in question. For example, a majority of citizens believe that biotechnology, genetic engineering and high-tech agriculture will have a positive effect on our way of life. However, while for the sake of human health a similar proportion of people would accept cloning animals or human embryonic stem cells under exceptional circumstances, citizens clearly draw a moral line when it comes to cloning human beings, with 59 per cent saying that it should 'never' be allowed. Finally, those currently lobbying for a significant increase in EU funding for research will be encouraged to read that 71 per cent of citizens agree that collaborative research at EU level is growing in importance, and that 64 per cent feel that our economy can only become more competitive by developing and applying the most advanced technologies.

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