A unique fingerprint? Factors influencing attitudes towards science and technology in South Africa

  • Lars Guenther Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  • Peter Weingart Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Keywords: perceptions of science and technology, scientific literacy, South Africa, sources of scientific information

Abstract

From an international perspective, research in the field of public attitudes towards science and technology has been conducted since the 1970s. A frequently proposed – and empirically supported – theory is that strong interest in and knowledge about science in a society is associated with more favourable attitudes towards science. This positive attitude in turn affects support for public funding of science. However, this research field is not without controversy, and for the South African population many questions remain unanswered. Initial research has not explored the factors that shape attitudes towards science and technology in detail. We re-analysed data from the Human Sciences Research Council to explore the above theory. Interestingly, for the South African population, higher levels of scientific literacy and use of information sources are associated with more promises but also more reservations towards science and technology. This is especially true for relatively young and educated survey respondents. In international comparison, South Africa shows a unique fingerprint to some extent, but also shares characteristics with industrially developing countries of Europe (such as Greece or Portugal). To understand the correlations better, future research should aim to examine the overall picture when investigating the diverse South African population more extensively.

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Published
2016-07-26