Science and Society: My analysis of the Eurobarometer (1)

So I finally finished gathering my data and did my plots. Before I get into specifics about what exactly did the Greek sample say, I want to mention four things that I found striking:

  1. there was significantly more emphasis in the Greek answers: Even though, in most questions their beliefs appear to be similar to those of other Europeans, their answers were more “emphatic” i.e. their answers were less divided compared to other EU countries. I noticed this by eye, and in an effort to “quantify” it, I ranked all European countries according to their responses using the graph charts presented in the Eurobarometer report. In these graphs, the countries were plotted in descending order, according to the value of the majority and minority percentages in those questions. The country on the far left was thus ranked “1” since it showed the greatest majority percentage. Similarly the country on the far right was ranked “28” (the average of all 27 EU countries was included in the ranking).

In the following graph I present the distribution of rankings of the EU27 average:

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Homeopathy :-S

One could say that in this blog, I focus too much on UK science policy news, or generally UK science-related events, trends etc. I have to admit, I find them a tiny bit easier to understand, given that I did all my studying in the UK. But there is another reason why I focus on the UK. I am still a bit scared to look at what is happening in Greece.

Probably in 2002, as a naive 2nd year undergraduate, right in the middle of my tree-hugging phase, I looked online to find out what my government’s views were on GM. I was against GM back then, so I was happy to read that the Greek government was too. However, the reality was very different. Since the government did very little to control GM crops, there were many GM fields in Greece. If I remember correctly, they had to burn huge areas when they found out about them, in order to show they were truly against GM. I was very disappointed to say the least.

My problem with science policy issues – e.g. libel law, abortion, animal rights, MMR, homeopathy, etc – is that I have huge gaps in my knowledge, since I only recently started to be interested in them. I have no idea what are the facts, what are the arguments for and against, for many of these issues. Immersed in my world of theoretical genomics, I did not really pay attention when I was in the UK. This was a good thing in a way, because I managed to get my PhD very young, but on the other hand, I now feel completely overwhelmed. Don’t worry, you might say, there is plenty of time. You are right.

Homeopathy is one of the issues I know nothing about in terms of policy. I have met people of course that use it regularly, but i have no idea what is going on exactly with doctor certification, government expenditure, etc.

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Science and Society: step 2 is to plot the data…

This is just a teaser of the data i am plotting.

QC6.8 (see below)  is maybe the question whose answers showed the biggest difference between Greece and the UK so far (I am half way through all the eurobarometer tables).

So a lot more Greek than British people feel that “because of their knowledge, scientists have a power that makes them dangerous”. When all EU27 countries are ranked according to their belief in this statement, Greece is on the one end of the spectrum (2nd most agreeing) and the UK is at the other end of the spectrum (6th least agreeing).

Could this maybe be part of the explanation of why the one country reacts and the other doesn’t?