Polling of public attitudes toward science contains very mixed results. By a margin of 93 to 7 the public believes the U.S. should be a global leader in science, and two out of three people approve using taxpayer funds to support research. But of 1400 respondents, nearly one in two give the federal government a grade of C, D, or F for its innovation efforts, and 50 percent believe the federal research budget is too large. Lacking knowledge about the benefits that accrue, the public ranks science second among federal programs prime for cutting. At a time when deficits and debt are forcing reductions in federal spending, legislators and policymakers - even those who are staunch science advocates - will pay close attention to opinions voters hold. Although the science community continues to devote considerable resources to public outreach, the reach is thin and the focus is narrow. Communicating the excitement of science to an already engaged audience is important and should continue. But marketing the value of research across the broad arena is critical and must begin now. Without increased awareness of the tangible good science delivers, the average voter will raise little objection to budgets that slash federal support for research.
Refreshments will be available in 337 West Hall (across the hall from the lecture room) prior to the talk.