Norwegians claim to be the most optimistic about technology

Norwegian scientists have claimed that a European Commission survey shows their compatriots are top in Europe when it comes to their faith in science and technology.

The survey also discovered increasing pessimism in much of Europe about the potential contribution of research to our daily lives. While Norwegians were 2 per cent more optimistic than in 2005 - and Croatians 3 per cent - the 27 EU countries experienced an average decline of 12 percentage points during the same period.

When asked whether they believed that science and technology will lead to a healthier, easier and more comfortable life, 75 per cent of Norwegian respondents answered yes. Only the UK, Malta and Iceland have more faith in what science and technology can achieve.

Norwegians were also more willing to invest in scientific research that does not bring any immediate benefits to society, with 87 per cent of survey respondents approving the government funding of basic research the effects of which are uncertain in the short term.

The results are taken from a Eurobarometer survey conducted by market research group TNS on behalf of the European Commission. It was a follow-up of similar surveys carried out in 2001 and 2005, and included five non-EU members. Three are EU candidates (Croatia, Iceland and Turkey) and two are European single market members via the EFTA and Schengen accords (Norway and Switzerland).

As well as potential benefits, the survey asked Europeans about the negative aspects of science and technology. When asked whether the benefits of research are greater than any of the potentially harmful effects one can think of, Norwegians topped the positive list, with 65 per cent answering in the affirmative.

The faith in research and researchers was also evident from the fact that 73 per cent of Norwegian respondents believed that we may miss out on technological progress if we focus too much on potential risks that are not yet fully understood. In addition, 74 per cent - more than anywhere else in Europe - said that it was important in daily life to know about science.

“It comes as a bit of a surprise that we clearly come out tops compared with other European countries,” said Arvid Hallén, director-general of the Norwegian Research Council. “But first and foremost, the results show that the Norwegian population thinks along the same lines as we do.

“The great interest shown by the population should serve as a good argument in favour of an ambitious research policy in this country,” added Hallén, who wants research and development to be more of a national priority in the time ahead, with more funding of both basic and applied research.

Further information:
Eurobarometer Special Surveys

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