Survey explores how the public perceives chemistry

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12th November 2015 10:41 - Chemicals

A recent study on behalf of The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has revealed the findings of the first national survey which explores the UKSurvey explores how the public perceives chemistry public’s perception of chemistry, chemists and chemicals.

The survey findings uncovered that the public strongly associates chemistry with their experiences at school. The association between chemistry and school was even stronger when it came to chemical elements. However, the researchers discovered conflicting feelings amongst the respondents about their experiences at school.

A quarter of the sample said that their school experience had put them off chemistry, whereas 49 per cent disagreed with this. Of the survey sample, the women respondents were found to have had a more negative experience at school than men did, as 28 per cent of women said that school put them off chemistry, in comparison with 21 per cent of men.

The respondents aged between 16 and 24 were found to be less likely than average to agree that school has put them off chemistry.

The survey findings also revealed that the UK public’s perception of how chemistry impacts society was more positive than the professional chemists anticipated. The majority of public respondents (95 per cent) said that they thought that chemists make a difference in the world and that chemists are trustworthy (93 per cent).

According to the survey findings, the respondents lacked specific examples of how chemistry makes positive impact and found it easier to give negative examples and stereotypes.

Generally, the majority of the respondents said that they did not feel an emotional connection with chemistry and 50 per cent said that they felt neutral about it.

The survey found that people associate chemists with pharmacists, with 26 per cent of people connecting the word ‘chemist’ to pharmacists. As well as this, 22 per cent associated ‘chemists’ with medication, and 13 per cent said the same of a chemist’s shop.

Chiara Ceci, the Project Leader at The Royal Society of Chemistry, said of the survey findings: “I think teachers have an important role in meeting this challenge. Teachers themselves need to understand the breadth of careers available so they can spark the imagination of their students.”

The survey findings indicated that chemistry teachers face a challenge in showcasing the potential career paths available to young people when studying chemistry.

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