Information and life science technologies have profound social, political, psychological and ethical implications. Public perceptions of such technologies are potentially volatile.
The Swinburne National Technology and Society Monitor was developed in 2003 at Swinburne University of Technology. It involves a representative nationwide survey of Australians, and provides an annual ‘snapshot’ of public perceptions regarding new technologies in Australia.
The 2015 Monitor is the twelfth edition of the Swinburne National Technology and Society Monitor. It provides a general account of public perceptions about new technologies in Australia, including trust in institutions that provide information about new technologies. In addition, it involves an assessment of current social concerns, and a profile on public attitudes to a number of aspects of scientific research.
The main findings of the 2015 Monitor are:
1. In general, Australians are comfortable with the rate of technological change in the world today.
2. Most Australians are very comfortable with having wind farms in Australia but are not comfortable with having nuclear power plants in Australia.
3. The degree of comfort with genetically modified (GM) plants and animals for food remains relatively low.
4. Australians trust scientific institutions and the non-commercial media for information about new technologies. They have less trust in major companies and the churches, with the least trust in the commercial media.
5. When asked what social issues were the most important for Australia today, issues related to population were the most cited social concerns, followed by quality of life, public health and community issues.
6. A subset of 400 respondents was asked about their attitudes towards a number of aspects of scientific research.
a. Respondents were uncomfortable with scientific research that could either harm or risk the well-being of humans, animals or the environment, and the degree of discomfort was greater for harming or risking the wellbeing of the environment than it was for harming or risking the well-being of humans or animals.
b. Respondents were very comfortable with scientific advances that may benefit humans, animals or the environment, but only moderately comfortable with scientific discoveries that may not have practical applications.
c. Where there were differences in comfort levels based on the source of funding, respondents were more comfortable with scientific research that is publicly funded than with scientific research that is privately funded.