Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD

Program

School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

David Drew

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

June Hilton

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

DeLacy Ganley

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2022 Burcu Demiralp

Abstract

One of the challenges humans face is making collective decisions with regards to controversial issues related to science, namely socio-scientific issues (SSIs). Genetic modification, nuclear energy, experimental drugs, 5G technology are a few examples of SSIs. Some of the concerns posed by such issues are compromise to privacy and identity, threat to the workforce due to automation, and potential changes to the human genome. To better understand SSI-related decision making, it is important to understand the public perception of SSIs, while also including opinions of rural areas.This research investigated the perception of SSIs for the U.S. public both in a small U.S. rural area, and in the whole country. Study 1 (N=162) focused on a rural area and was conducted through an online survey posted to social media, while Study 2 (N=2002) used a national sample as part of a secondary data analysis from the Pew Research Center. Both studies looked at the relationship between levels of general education, science knowledge, and perception of SSI-related innovations.One of the main findings from Study 1 (which relied on correlation analysis) is that higher levels of education relate to increased support for use of animals for research and increased agreement on the safety of GMO foods. However, Study 2 (which used binary logistic regression analysis) found that as education level increased, the odds of supporting fracking or agreeing that GMO food is safe decreased. Study 1, also showed that as science knowledge increased support for fracking decreased, while agreement on the safety of GMO food increased. Study2, on the other hand indicated that the odds of support for SSIs decreased for use of plant fuel, animals for research, experimental drugs, and artificial organs.Additionally Study 1 looked at holding a science degree and Study 2 looked at keeping up with science news as potential variables related to perceptions of SSIs. T test analysis in Study 1 showed that science degree holders favored virus modification, nuclear energy, use of animals for research and viewed GMO foods as safe, while non-science degree holders did not. In Study 2, as familiarity with science news increased support for offshore oil and gas drilling switched from support to opposition, while view of modification of baby genes for smarter babies switched from taking science too far to appropriate. Lastly, multiple regression analysis in Study 1 showed that mean perception of health-related innovations is a significant predictor of use of the Covid-19 vaccine even though its clinical trials have not been completed.To conclude, an interesting overall finding was that rural area participants indicated more opposition to SSIs than the national sample. And, science news and holding a science degree seemed to behave differently than education level and science knowledge with a leaning towards more support of SSIs. These findings may help shape policies and practices related to media in how science news are produced and shared, increase our awareness of opinions of rural areas, and broaden our conception of science to include human experience and its connection to nature.

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