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News Release

Ontario Science Centre’s 2018 Science Literacy Survey reveals Canadians believe science is needed to solve critical world issues

Highlights:

  • 83% of Canadians want to learn more about science and how it affects our world
  • 81% agree that most people don’t understand the impact of science on their everyday lives
  • 74% agree that critical challenges facing the world will need to be solved by science and technology
  • 54% believe that society is turning away from science in favour of ideas that lack evidence or data

TORONTO (September 17, 2018) – The Ontario Science Centre’s third annual Science Literacy Survey reveals most Canadians (74%) believe that science and technology will play a major role in solving the world’s challenges. However, many are concerned about the impact of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (62%), automation (60%) and the “Internet of Things” (54%) once they are applied in everyday life. The study also reveals a worrisome development: 54 per cent of respondents believe society is turning away from science. Each year, the Ontario Science Centre publishes the results of its Science Literacy Survey to coincide with Science Literacy Week, a national celebration of science from September 17 to 23.

Most Canadians are optimistic about the power of science and technology, but this optimism coexists with an underlying concern about how new technologies are being put into effect. All things considered, respondents believe that scientific advancement will likely end up solving far more problems than it will create and many benefits will result from future scientific and technological advancements, like safer equipment and products, and better health care.

“Science literacy has never been more important than it is today,” said Dr. Maurice Bitran, PhD, CEO, and Chief Science Officer, Ontario Science Centre. “The rapid pace of scientific advancement and the emergence of new technologies like artificial intelligence and self-driving cars have created an interesting tension in the minds of Canadians. People recognize that these technologies are important, but don’t know enough about them to feel comfortable with their implementation. That’s something the Ontario Science Centre can help with.”

The implementation of most advanced technologies causes discomfort

Canadians recognize the need for technology in their daily lives, but many feel nervous putting it into practice. While many respondents (45%) believe artificial intelligence will have a large impact on improving and advancing society, concern over its implementation is still high (62%). The same concern holds true for large-scale automation (60%) and devices enabled by the “Internet of Things” (54%).

In contrast, Canadians believe that alternative fuels and bioengineered body parts will have a significant impact on improving and advancing society (58% and 43%, respectively), and far fewer respondents expressed concerns about these technologies.

Scientific advancement will lead to improved quality of life

Canadians feel hopeful in the role that science and technology can play in solving humanity’s greatest challenges and improving their lives. A clear majority believe that science contributes to improved quality of life (84%). Additionally, most Canadians believe scientific and technological advancements will benefit society:

  • 63% believe they will lead to safer equipment and products
  • 62% believe they will lead to better health care
  • 58% believe they will lead to more efficient processes
  • 53% believe they will lead to new skills development
  • 36% believe they will lead to better quality jobs

Science and technology institutions are critical for improving science literacy

Science centres, being among the most trusted sources of accurate information (90%), are called on to play a vital role in helping Canadians understand, engage with and use scientific knowledge in their day-to-day lives. The majority of Canadians believe that most people do not understand the impact of science on their everyday lives (81%). They also indicate interest in improving their science literacy and learning more about science and how it affects their world (83%). Initiatives like Science Literacy Week are a catalyst for Canadians to engage with the science and technology community.

“Science Literacy Week is a celebration of science and what we can accomplish when we engage in critical conversations around science and technology,” said Bitran. “You don’t need to be a scientist to have a better understanding of the changes taking place in our world today — you only need the willingness to learn.”

For full Science Literacy Survey results, please visit SciLitSurvey2018.

Methodology

An online survey of 1,501 Canadians was completed between June 18 and June 26, 2018, using Leger’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

  • For general information about the Ontario Science Centre please see the Visit Us section of the webpage and for contact information please refer to our Contact Us page or
    phone: 416-696-1000.

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