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Familiarity with science

010-011_Estrategias_234-001The results of two studies released during the 67th annual meeting of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), held in July 2015 at the campus of the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), paint an up-to-date picture of how Brazilians relate to science and technology. One of the studies surveyed 2,002 people between the ages of 15 and 40 in nine metropolitan regions of the country and found that only 5% of respondents could be rated as scientifically literate. In other words, only 5% were able to understand basic, everyday scientific vocabulary and concepts, like “biodegradable” or “megawatt,” and could think critically about the impact of science on society. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed had trouble answering basic questions—for example, whether they understood the effects of the medicines they take. “A good share of Brazilians still can’t apply science in their lives, because to do so, they’d have to know how to read and interpret scientific information,” explains Anderson Stevens Leonidas Gomes, professor at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) and consultant with the Abramundo Institute, which is responsible for Brazil’s Scientific Literacy Index, an initiative undertaken in conjunction with both the NGO Ação Educativa (Educational action)  and the Paulo Montenegro Institute, the latter with ties to the Brazilian Public Opinion and Statistics Institute (IBOPE). One of the study’s recommendations for boosting the scientific proficiency index in Brazil is to make science teaching a classroom priority starting in elementary school. The second study, released at the SBPC meeting by the Center for Strategic Studies and Management (CGEE) and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), investigated the public perception of science and technology in Brazil. A total of 1,962 people over the age of 16 were interviewed around the country. According to the survey, 61% of Brazilians are “interested” or “very interested” in science and technology, a higher percentage than the 53% recorded in the European Union in 2013, for example. Of those interviewed, 73% said science and technology do people more good than harm. Compared with the results of international surveys, Brazil stands out as one of the countries that is most optimistic about the benefits of research. The index in China is the same as in Brazil (73%), while the figure is 67% in the United States and 64% in Spain, followed by 46% in Italy and 43% in France. Still, only 12% of Brazilians had visited science and technology museums or centers in the 12 months prior to the survey.