Conservative Party: Relationship between science and society

14 February 2007

In January 2007 the Conservative Party Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Taskforce invited evidence on the relationship between STEM and society, including an assessment of public engagement with STEM, public attitudes and trust, and the accessibility and accountability of science and engineering.

The Royal Society submission to this enquiry maintained that when present, public concern over science (to include technology and engineering) is not over science per se, but particular advances. Government, political bodies and the science community therefore have an opportunity to work with the public and other groups to develop science policies and research trajectories that account for concern and respond to aspiration. For this reason, the Society supports arms length, rigorous and structured public engagement on a case-by-case basis.
The submission highlighted some of the Society's activities of this type, the outputs of which inform the Society's policy work and that of other organisations. Further drawing on previous Society reports and activities, the submission also noted that innovative science communication, education and engagement can have a positive impact on people's trust in science and scientists, their interest and engagement with science issues, and can encourage young people to follow science careers.
Looking forward, the principles of public engagement need to continue to spread progressively through policy and scientific communities, and institutional barriers such as poor reward and recognition which inhibit scientists and engineers who want to undertake engagement need to be addressed.