06 December 2006

Internet Authority in Scientific Research

According to a national survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the Exploratorium, 40 million Americans use the internet as their primary source of news and information about science, and 87 percent of online users have at one time used the internet to carry out research on a scientific topic or concept.

For Americans with high-speed Internet connections, the internet is as popular as TV for news and information about science. Young adults with high-speed connections at home rely more (44 percent) on the Internet for science news and information, compared to television (32 percent).

Over 70 percent of Internet users say they turn to the internet for science news and information because it is convenient; 65 percent say they have encountered news and information about science when they have gone online for a different reason.

The study found that 87 percent of online users have used the Internet to look up the meaning of a scientific concept, answer a specific science question, learn more about a scientific breakthrough, help complete a school assignment, check the accuracy of a scientific fact, downloaded scientific data, or compare different or opposing scientific theories.

When asked about stem cell research, 2/3 of respondents said they would find information on the Internet; 59 percent said they would use the Internet to find information on climate change.

From the press release:
Users of the internet for science information also report better attitudes about the role science plays in society and higher assessments of how well they understand science. Specifically:
  • 78% of those who have gotten science information online describe themselves as "very" or "somewhat" informed about new scientific discoveries
  • 58% of remaining internet users says this
  • 48% strongly agree that to be a strong society, the United States needs to be competitive in science
  • 33% of remaining online users strongly agree with this
  • 43% strongly agree that scientific research is essential to improving the quality of human lives
  • 27% of remaining online users say this
  • 59% of Americans have been to some sort of science museum in the past year, such as a zoo or aquarium, natural history museum, science or technology museum, or planetarium
  • 49% of internet users have gone to a website whose content is devoted to science, such as the Smithsonian's website or NationalGeographic.com.
  • The report also shows a relationship between the two behaviors: those who have gone to a science museum are more likely to visit science websites, and vice versa
Note: The Exploratorium website is a great beginning to any scientific project, with links to many educational sites and sources. Check out the science behind skateboarding, surfing, baseball and other sports; space weather; faultlines; robots.

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