What the Public Thinks About Chemists

  • Author: ChemistryViews.org
  • Published Date: 18 September 2015
  • Source / Publisher: Chemie in Unserer Zeit/Wiley-VCH
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: What the Public Thinks About Chemists

Despite the immense contribution of chemistry to human well-being, our science has a poor image. Chemists think that many people do not understand chemistry and therefore think it is uninteresting. We think that the general public does not understand why someone would like to work in the chemical industry, and that many would prefer to completely prohibit chemicals because they consider them to be dangerous and toxic.

In his editorial in the Chemie in Unserer Zeit, Klaus Roth, Berlin, Germany, cites a recent survey among members of the RSC [1] and concludes that we have to admit that we are quite wrong with such thoughts. According to the study:

  • 84 % of the population believe chemists made a valuable contribution to the common good.
  • Whereas chemists believe that 33 % of the population see in chemistry more good than harm, in reality 59 % do so.
  • Chemists believe more than 50 % of the population would consider every chemical as dangerous and harmful. In fact, only 20 % do so. 70 % know that water and oxygen are toxic at appropriate dose.
  • 93 % of the population believe chemists are honest,
  • 85 % believe chemists are passionate, and
  • 72 % believe chemists are interesting.
  • 72 % of the population is convinced that chemistry significantly contributes to the economic prosperity, and
  • 55 % think that they should know more about the role of chemistry in our daily life. However, more than half of the population is afraid to talk about chemical topics.

Roth concludes that we should stop moaning and instead start to be proud of our chemistry and infect others with our enthusiasm. The RSC gives some useful practical advice for such successful communication. For example: Communication is a craft that you can learn and develop and improve through practice. Use every opportunity to talk about your work, what you are doing, and why it is important for all of us. Always adjust your language to the age and level of knowledge of the persons you are talking to.

[1] „Public attitudes to chemistry“ Study of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)

  • Video of Press Conference:  


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