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Authors: Eva, Elena* 
Musacchio, Gemma* 
Piangiamore, Giovanna L.* 
Solarino, Stefano* 
Title: The trust of Italian students in geoscientists: a quantitative pilot study
Issue Date: 10-Sep-2014
Keywords: science outreach
Subject Classification05. General::05.03. Educational, History of Science, Public Issues::05.03.99. General or miscellaneous 
Abstract: If the Layman is to fulfil his responsibility as a citizen in this globalized modern society he will have to know about science in an understandable form. Geosciences may deeply impact on everyday lives as it relates hazards. However there is a stringent paradox that drives to underestimate the potential of Geosciences to help people live with natural hazards, take decision towards land use and vulnerability of infrastructures. argue that one of the reasons for geoscience not playing a major role in modern society is due to incomplete or inefficient communication and the consequent lack of trust of citizens toward geoscientists. students represent a specific kind of Layman as they are close to become “adult” citizen entitled to take decisions or contribute to them. In this study we present the results of a poll conducted on high school students (age 14-­19) aiming at estimating the trust of the young Italian citizens in the geoscientists and their studies. The sample refers Italy, in areas prone to natural hazards from low to moderate intensity. Although limited to about 180 students and then not representative of the whole nation, the information, collected directly in schools before or laboratories, can be used for a rough picture of level of trust of a part of the society towards the Geosciences. The poll contained very few questions, the form in fact was organized in three sections only. The first to collect age and region of the compilers, the second to know about the sources students usually use catastrophes and natural phenomena and the last aiming at estimating the trust towards the scientists and their studies. First results show that, students get their information mainly from the internet (about 60%) in its various forms (social media, Wikipedia) and TV (31%). However newspapers (17%) and schools (10%) significant fraction of sources of information. In regard to the trust in science, some 87% believe that scientists are reliable but only 73% consider their research also useful. Only less than 5% declare that both scientists and their studies are not reliable and Finally, about 75 % of the sample believe in the potential of future studies in Geoscience to help the society face natural catastrophes. It must be remarked that the regions where the poll took place were not hit by main earthquakes in the last years. However the pool is part of an ongoing research that will include regions prone to higher hazards and recently hit by earthquakes, which will allow to compare the relationship between preparedness, hazard and the role of scientists in different contexts. Additionally, it would be necessary to estimate introduced by the fact that the poll, although anonymous, is conducted before a scientific talk given by scientists. This may in fact introduce a sort of “respect” that could in turn influence the answers. For this to propose the questionnaire to schools that had no relationships with geoscientists in the last five years.
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