TAMPA — Science, technology, engineering and math — the so-called STEM subjects — have become hot political topics this month with Gov. Rick Scott's declaration that he wants to see students get "degrees in things where you can get jobs." But what do Floridians think?
Research!America, a nonprofit alliance devoted to making health research a higher national priority, recently commissioned an online poll of 800 Floridians on these and related topics. Bottom line: it's a mixed bag. Those polled believe, for instance, that science and math education is important, and career opportunities in these fields need to be enhanced.
But we're not so sure about paying higher taxes to finance research, nor are we very confident that job prospects in those fields will grow in Florida (see pie charts).
What's going on?
Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, sees those seeming contradictions as gaps between knowing what we want, and not seeing clearly how we're going to get there.
"That's a real call-out for leadership,'' she said, adding that survey results are being shared with elected officials. "Leadership can pull people up to where they aspire to be.''
One example: Florida ranks fourth in population, but it's 17th in research funding received from the National Institutes of Health, Woolley said.
"That's a big, big gap,'' she said, one that states such as North Carolina have addressed by assuring that "there's a robust infrastructure within the state, that the universities are well served so they can attract the kind of researchers who then will attract federal dollars from the NIH.''
The poll findings are being released today at a forum on science journalism the group is holding in Tampa with the University of South Florida. Among other findings:
• Most Floridians can't name a living scientist or journalist.
• Scientists and health care professionals are most trusted as sources of science news; government officials are trusted least; journalists are in the middle.
• Slightly more than half think animal research is necessary; even more favor research using embryonic stem cells.
See more at www.researchamerica.org.