On the real power of a chief scientific advisor

Science’s profile of Anne Glover Europe’s Science Superwoman Struggles to Get Off the Ground

And an blog post by Roger Pielke Jr No Superpowers for the EU Science Adviser

which includes the following speech by Anne Glover

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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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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?

Science and Society: step 1 is to set the question…

Why is there reaction to science-related issues in some countries, and in others not so much?

Having lived for almost a decade in a country where there were big reactions to science issues (MMR, GM, mad cow, etc), and having moved back to a country where the reactions are not so big – one could say non-existent – it makes me wonder why is this the case?

Of course it comes down to society, but why? What I mean is, of course there are big differences between the British and Greek societies, but which of these differences cause reaction in the former and not in the latter?

This question has been brewing in my mind for quite sometime now since it is different to communicate science to a society that is against it, than to a society that simply does not care. (A related question: why it does not care?)

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