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[MADRID] Surveys carried out in six Latin American cities have shown a high public interest in science.

The results of the surveys in Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Santiago, Sao Paulo and Panamá City — along with Madrid, Spain — were announced last week (8 February) at the Ibero American Citizenship and Public Policies in Science and Technology meeting, in Madrid.

Interviewees who said they were 'very interested' in science ranged from 60 per cent in Santiago to 80 per cent in Bogota and Caracas.

"However, there is a gap between the interest expressed by the interviewees and the consumption of science products — such as science television and radio programmes or science stories," Carmelo Polino, one of the coordinators of the study and researcher at Argentina's educational non-profit organisation Centro Redes, told SciDev.Net.

The interviewees highlighted television as the most important source of science information. Between 20 per cent (Caracas) and 30 per cent (Bogota and Sao Paulo) of the interviewees said they often watch science documentaries.  The figures ranged from 60 per cent (Caracas) to 80 per cent (Bogota, Buenos Aires, Santiago) for those who say they sometimes watch such programmes.

About 80 per cent of the interviewees in all cities said they associated science and technology (S&T) with being beneficial to society.

However, several of the interviewees (from 35 per cent in Caracas to 70 per cent in Bogota), also associated S&T with risks.

"This does not mean a lack of support toward science, but does suggest that there is a less naive image from people toward science, according to which both benefits and risks are considered in their perceptions," affirmed Polino.

The questionnaire included 36 questions, in four sections: information and interest in science; attitudes toward S&T; citizenship and S&T policies; and social appropriation of S&T — the utilisation of the benefits for S&T.

"[The study] produced a significant amount of data; now we need to learn how to analyse them and put them in the cultural context of each country — a task we are dedicating ourselves to in the following months," he said.

The questionnaire was designed by a team of 15 people from all the countries involved, with the support from the Organisation of Ibero American States, the Spanish Foundation for S&T and Centro Redes.

The survey was supported by governmental organisations from each country, engaging 1,100 interviewees per city.

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