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Wellcome Trust Monitor

Doctor and patient
Published: September 2009


This project aimed to establish a baseline against which to track the public's attitudes to and understanding of medical research over time, as well as finding out what young people aged between 14 and 18 think about science education and science careers. The survey was first conducted by NatCen in 2009 and will be repeated every three years with each survey in the series exploring a specific topic in depth.


34% of adults and 22% of young people said they were very interested in medical research.

Knowledge of medical research vocabulary varies considerably:  49% of adults and 63% of young people felt they had a very good or good understanding of DNA, while only 26% of adults and 31% of young people understood stem cells.

56% of adults and 67% of young people thought medical research would probably produce a cure for cancer in the future. 65% said this about HIV AIDS, and 31% of adults and 44% of young people felt this about schizophrenia.

Experiences of school science were generally positive; 69% of adults and 81% of young people said they found science lessons very or fairly interesting at school.

The quality of teaching was a particularly important factor in encouraging or putting off young people from learning science at school; 52% of the young people said having a good teacher encouraged them to learn science whilst 47% identified a bad teacher as something that had put them off.


We selected a group of adults aged 18 and over by randomly sampling addresses from the UK's Postcode Address File. Young people aged 14-18 were interviewed in the households of adult respondents and at neighbouring addresses using a technique called focussed enumeration.

In 2009 we interviewed 1,179 adults aged 18 and over and 374 young people. These interviews were conducting using CAPI, with some questions being asked of only adults or young people and some questions being asked of both.

Read the report