France most skeptical about science and vaccines global survey finds

first_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Phanie/Alamy Stock Photo Just say ‘non’ When asked whether vaccines are safe, a survey finds French people disagree the most. These are the countries that trust scientists the most—and the least A woman gets vaccinated at a Paris hospital. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe It might be unfair to label France as averse to science based on a single survey. There is plenty of enthusiasm for specific technologies, according to a 2017 OpinionWay survey of 1059 people in France commissioned by Quattrocento, a scientific business incubator in Paris. It found that more than three-quarters of respondents were hopeful about research in transport and renewable energies. At the same time, about two-thirds were worried about nuclear energy research and studies of genetically modified (GM) foods. The French government, a global leader in producing nuclear energy and exporting its technology, has largely ignored public dissent in that arena, but it has taken up public suspicions about GM foods by, for example, banning the cultivation of GM maize. Country Disagree Country FranceDisagree33% Country GabonDisagree26% Country TogoDisagree25% Country RussiaDisagree24% Country SwitzerlandDisagree22% Country ArmeniaDisagree21% Country AustriaDisagree21% Country BelgiumDisagree21% Country IcelandDisagree21% Country Burkina FasoDisagree20% Country HaitiDisagree20% center_img The survey also reveals French pessimism about the economic value of science. Some 55% say they see science and technology as a threat to local jobs in the next 5 years. Although France is the only country scoring above 50% on this question, a similar gloominess spans other parts of Europe, whereas most regions in Africa and Asia are optimistic about science boosting job prospects. The survey suggests France’s sluggish economy and relatively high unemployment as plausible causes. That fear about the future is understandable, says Catherine Pélachaud, an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher at Sorbonne University in Paris. “We see factories closing down and it can be very hard for less-qualified people to adapt.” Quelle surprise. France, cradle of the Concorde, the face transplant, and the first isolation of HIV, is more wary of vaccines and the economic value of science than more than 140 other countries, according to a global survey of public attitudes toward science and health released this week. But French scientists say the skepticism is familiar and doesn’t affect their work; some suggest it instead reflects a deep-seated mistrust of institutions. “We think there’s a problem of trust in government, in particular in health authorities,” says Pierre Verger, an epidemiologist who studies vaccine hesitancy at the French biomedical research institute INSERM in Marseille.When asked whether vaccines are safe, one-third of the 1000 French respondents to the survey disagreed—far more than in other nations. (In the United States, 11% disagreed.) The mistrust didn’t vary much across age, gender, or education, according to the survey, conducted by the Gallup World Poll for the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical charity based in London.Verger’s research points to high-profile health scandals as an explanation. In 2009, for example, years after other countries, French regulators withdrew approval for Mediator, an amphetamine-based diabetes drug linked to hundreds of deaths, amid concerns of undue industry influence. The French have also been unhappy with heavy-handed public health campaigns, such as a costly mass vaccination for swine flu that same year. “France is one of a few countries where [such controversies] have been so frequent,” Verger says. France most skeptical about science and vaccines, global survey finds Related Email By Tania RabesandratanaJun. 19, 2019 , 12:01 AM Some French scientists are unsurprised by the survey results, and point out that opinions don’t always correlate to behavior. Of the French parents surveyed, 91% say their children are vaccinated, in line with the global average of 92%. “It’s the French paradox: We have doubts about many things; we grumble. But thankfully, vaccine coverage remains high,” says Olivier Schwartz, scientific director of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, which depends on public donations to carry out its work, including vaccine research. “I don’t perceive a hostile climate,” Schwartz adds. “On the contrary, I feel that [people in France have] a thirst for knowledge.”The survey data back this up: Some 71% of respondents in France say they know “some” or “a lot” about science—placing France in the top 10 globally. And 46% say they sought scientific information in the past month—compared with a median of 30% worldwide. Schwartz attributes the French vaccine skepticism to a lack of information, and says researchers and institutions need to fill that gap in a “simple and rigorous way.”But Brice Laurent, a sociologist at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation in Paris, warns against this “deficit model” of communication, which implies that ignorance breeds skepticism and that people would embrace technologies if only they knew enough science. Studies show that more informed people are often more skeptical, he notes.“It would be annoying if decision-makers saw this [survey] and thought, ‘French people just don’t get it, so we’ll repeat the message,’” Laurent cautions. He believes skepticism is ingrained in the culture of France, a place where all high schoolers are taught philosophy. “You could look at these stats and say: The French are critical thinkers; they are interested and ask questions,” he says.Pélachaud agrees that a vigilant public can help push scientists to consider societal impacts. “When I started 30 years ago, we didn’t ask ourselves ethical questions” in the AI field, says Pélachaud, who works on animated chatbots capable of nonverbal communication. “The French may be grumblers, but their critical thinking is important.”last_img

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