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5 Public Awareness Today 4, . In 1998, the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) com- missioned a survey of public awareness of engineering to be conducted by Harris Interactive. The survey was an attempt to provide better understanding of the results of a series of surveys conducted by Harris Interactive on a continuing basis on topics of interest, importance, and societal concern, such as the "pres- tige" Americans attach to various professions. The results of the earlier surveys are shown in Tables 2-1 and 2-2. Table 2-1 is a snapshot from 1998 that indicates that engineers have considerably less prestige than scientists. Table 2-2 shows that the percentage of respondents who consider engineers to have "very great" prestige has been "consistently mediocre" for 20+ years. FOLLOW-ON SURVEY In an effort to explore the results of the Harris polls, the AAES commis- sioned a follow-on study (also conducted by Harris Interactive). The results are analyzed below In the first question, participants were asked to evaluate scien- tists, technicians, and engineers in the following terms: 1. When you hear the word engineer or scientist or technician, what first comes to mind about what that person does? 2. As some activities are mentioned, whom do you associate with that activitya scientist, a technician, or an engineer? 3. As some characteristics are mentioned, who first comes to mind a scientist, technician, or engineer? 10

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PUBLIC AWARENESS TODAY TABLE 2-1 Excerpts from the Harris Poll Indicating the Level of Prestige American's Impart to Various Professions 1 1 Very Great Considerable Some Hardly Any Don't Know Doctor 61% 27% 10% 2% 1% Scientist 55 So 30% 10% 3% 1 % Teacher 53% 26% 15% 5% 1% Minister 46% 28% 19% 7% 1 % Policeman 41% 31% 20% 7% 0% Engineer 34% 39% 22% 4% 1 % Military Officer 34% 36% 23% 6% 1% Architect 26% 42% 26% 4% 2% Congressman 25% 31% 26% 17% 1% Lawyer 23% 30% 28% 18% 1% Athlete 20% 28% 34% 17% 0% Entertainer 19% 29% 36% 15% 1% Businessman 18% 37% 38% 6% 1% Banker 18% 33% 39% 10% 0% Accountant 17% 33% 38% 11% 1% Journalist 15% 33% 37% 13% 1% Union Leader 16% 28% 33% 22% 1% Note: Not all of the percentages add up to 100 because not all respondents answered every question. [The sample was a national cross-section of adults (N=1,000). The data are weighted to reflect the overall national population]. ., TABLE 2-2 Results of Periodic Polls by Harris Interactive on the Prestige of Various Professions, 1977-1988 Percentage That Rated Prestige as "Very Great" 1977 1982 1992 1997 1998 Doctor 61 55 50 52 61 Scientist 66 59 57 51 55 Teacher 29 28 41 49 53 Minister 41 42 38 45 46 Policeman NA NA 34 36 41 Engineer 34 30 37 32 34 Military Officer NA 22 32 29 34 Architect NA NA NA NA 26 Congressman NA NA 24 23 25 Lawyer 36 30 25 19 23 Athlete 26 20 18 21 20 Artist 21 20 13 19 NA Entertainer 18 16 17 18 19 Businessman 18 16 19 16 18 Banker 17 17 17 15 18 Accountant NA 13 14 18 17 Union Leader NA NA 12 14 16 Journalist 17 16 15 15 15

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12 RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS OF ENGINEERING The answers to these questions are shown in Table 2-3 and Figures 2-1 and 2-2. TABLE 2-3 Comparative Perceptions of Scientists, Technicians, and Engineers Scientists Technicians Engineers Invents 11 % 2% 2% Builds 10% 26% Designs/plans 1% 1% 27% Is creative 3% 1% 3% Discovers 18% 1% Pioneers 1 % Measures 1% 1% Works inlab 8% 6% Conducts research 11% Cures diseases 9% Seeks knowledge 6% Conducts experiments 5% Equipment repair 15% Works w/ computers 9% Specially qualified in their field 6% Works w/ electronics 5% Train operator 5% As Table 2-3 shows in response to question 1, the participants think of scien- tists as inventors and discoverers; of technicians as having specialized equip- ment-related qualifications; and of engineers as builders, makers, designers, and planners. The higher the respondent's educational level, the greater the likeli- hood that engineers were seen as designers and planners rather than builders. Figure 2-1 shows the answers to question 2. Respondents strongly associ- ated engineers with the design of new machines. They share credit with techni- cians for the development of software and with scientists and technicians for the design of medical instruments. However, most people did not recognize the con- tributions of engineers to the development of new forms of energy, to working in space, or to development of new drugs and medications. In general, scientists were more strongly associated with these activities.

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PUBLIC AWARENESS TODAY Designs new machines Develops new software Designs medical instruments Develops new forms of energy Creates new materials Services electronic equipment Works in space of; 13 Develops new drugs/medication i 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Engineer O Technician FIGURE 2-1 Activities Associated with Various Professions Scientist Figure 2-2 shows the results of question 3. Engineers are perceived as more pragmatic contributors to society than technicians and less attuned to societal issues than scientists. The respondents credited engineers with contributions to economic growth, leadership, and national security, but gave them poor marks for contributions to our quality of life and the environment, for inclusiveness, and for social concerns.

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:~ -:e t Q 14 Creates economic growth Would make strong leader Preserves national security Cares about community Improves quality of life Includes women/minorities Is sensitive to social concerns Protects the environment Saves lives Discovers the natural world RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS OF ENGINEERING 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% ~ Engineer ~ Technician FIGURE 2-2 Characteristics Associated with Various Professions Interviewees were then asked another set of questions: Scientist 4. Would you describe yourself as very well informed, fairly well informed, not very well informed, or not at all well informed about (a) science and scientists, (b) technology and technicians, (c) engineering and engineers? 5. Generally speaking, do you feel the media do an excellent, good, fair, or poor job in covering (a) science, (b) technology, (c) engineering, (d) medi- cal discoveries? 6. If the media were rated "fair" or "poor," the subjects were asked if the reason was that the media are not interested in the discipline, or they think you are not interested, or they don't understand the discipline, or some other reason?

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PUBLIC AWARENESS TODAY Engineering/ engineers Science/ scientists Technology/ technicians 15 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% _ jet:,I,, I How well _ ~~ ~< ~;~ Hi ~ ' informed Very Fairly Not very Not at all Base: All respondents (N = 1,011 ) FIGURE 2-3 Level of Information about Science, Technology, and Engineering .. Figure 2-3 shows that the respondents considered themselves not as well informed about engineers and engineering as about science and technology. A majority felt that they were "not very" or "not at all" well informed about engi- neering and engineers. The fraction of those who considered themselves poorly informed was somewhat higher among less educated people, and women consid- ered themselves much less informed than men. Figure 2-4 shows that, when the media are considered to do a "fair" or"poor" job covering engineering, the respondents believe the reason is that the media feel the public is not interested. Respondents were then asked two final questions: 7. Do you feel that technology in general makes a positive contribution to society, makes a negative contribution to society, or doesn't have much impact one way or another? 8. Using a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely displeased and 10 being extremely pleased, if your son or daughter said they wanted to be a/an scientist/technician/engineer, how pleased would you be? In answer to these questions, the respondents overwhelmingly (88%) felt that technology had made a positive contribution to society (Figure 2-5~. Most re- spondents also said they would be very pleased (median source 9) for family members to become scientists, engineers, or technicians. Because the profes-

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16 Englneenn Technology Science Medical .. . alscovenes RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS OF ENGINEERING _ I i I I I 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% l l - The American public feels are not don't feel publicis not the media interested understand interested FIGURE 2-4 Media Coverage Negative 3% Doesn't have much impact 8% \ l Done know ' ~ 1% Positive 88% FIGURE 2-5 Contribution of Science, Technology, and Engineering

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PUBLIC AWARENESS TODAY 17 signs were grouped together in question 8, it was impossible to separate out engi- neering. CONCLUSION The results of the periodic Harris Surveys and the follow-on survey commis- sioned by AAES paint a disappointing picture of the public understanding of engineering and public perceptions of the profession. Although most respon- dents recognized that engineering involves a process of design, they had little sense that engineering also involves applications of those designs. They expressed a great deal of goodwill toward technology, but seemed to direct only a modicum of that goodwill toward engineers and engineering. Although the collective ef- forts of engineers dramatically improved the quality of life for Americans in the twentieth century, the public appeared to give them little credit for those contri- butions. The survey results in Chapter 3 indicate the engineering community has been conducting a variety of public-awareness and outreach programs for many years, some reportedly for more than 20 years. Although some of these programs ..