Poll: 75% of Israelis value scientific R&D

Three-quarters of the public think the state invests too little money in academic research and development, poll states.

Elementary school 521 (photo credit: Sherihan Abdel-Rahman)
Elementary school 521
(photo credit: Sherihan Abdel-Rahman)
Three-quarters of the Israeli public think the state invests too little money in academic research and development, according to a poll released by the National Council for R&D issued for publication on Wednesday.
The council publicized the survey, comprised of a representative sample of 528 adults, in time for National Science Day – March 14 – the anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein.
“It is encouraging to see that the public regards science and technology highly,” said Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, chairman of the national council.
The Dahaf Institute survey, led by Dr. Mina Tzemah, also examined the public’s views of the status of the profession of scientist. Individuals in the medical profession were rated number one in prestige, while scientific professions were number two.
Somewhat lower were engineers, followed by teachers and military officers. The least respected profession was being a Knesset member. Teaching has risen in prestige, from 11th place in 2009 to fourth today.
Asked what profession they would recommend to their child or grandchild, most people chose doctors – which are in increasingly short supply and get paid better than they used to. Sixty-eight percent made that their first or second choice. Fifty percent chose scientist as their first or second choice profession to recommend. Engineers, senior businessmen (or women) and people in the humanities and culture came next.
Besides MKs, the least sought after profession was “social leaders,” athletes, police officers, entertainers and journalists.
With 80% of votes, health is the scientific subject in which the most Israelis are interested, followed by the environment, 60%; computers and Internet, 50%; subjects related to water supplies, 44%; followed by history and archeology, 41%. Women are more interested in health – 82% – than men – 72%.
As for the reliability of various sources of information on science, those surveyed picked university libraries and scientists, followed by museums, Internet, scientific publications, public institutions that provide services, radio, public lectures, TV, the daily press, scientists in government ministries, clergymen and scientists in private companies, in that order.
More than 80% thought that investment in education in weak socioeconomic areas will contribute to social justice. The vast majority thought more effort and money should be invested in the economically and socially disadvantaged.
As for contributions to the strength of the nation, most polled said physicians and senior scientists were tops, followed by engineers and other technologists and senior military officers. At the bottom were leading entertainers.
Ninety percent think the government should invest more funds in academic research and development, and 71% think it should put money even in commercial R&D companies. Only 9% maintained that the government puts too much money into R&D.
When queried about what scientific fields the government should invest in to ensure economic growth, those surveyed said education, followed by academic research, transportation infrastructure, industrial R&D, military infrastructure and financial and telecommunications infrastructure.
Poll participants gave Israel a grade of 7.9 out of 10 in scientific and technological accomplishments. Nearly 80% thought that its achievements in this field are similar to or higher than in other developed countries.
Ben-Yisrael concluded that according to the results, the public values education and academic research highly and gives them more priority than industrial research.
Seventy-two percent of the public said they were proud of Technion Prof. Dan Shechtman’s receipt of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last year. Two-thirds of Israelis are concerned about the phenomenon of the “brain drain” to the US and other countries, and 69% said the country does not do enough to bring back leading scientists who left.
But only 57% of those polled said that scientific and technological knowledge is vital for their daily life – a 9% drop from the last poll in 2009. And just half thought these fields benefit people in all levels of society. One in five of those queried said that since the benefits are not spread evenly in the population, the advantages of science and technology cause estrangement between those who do not benefit and those who do.