Energy, economy, and STEM concerns top state science survey

Alternative energy, the economy, and STEM education are the three top science-and-technology-related worries according to an Ohio Academy of Science survey of state and local public officials, including those in the governor's office (see here).

Energy use, energy production, and related environmental issues; the aging of baby boomers; and transportation also were high priorities cited by public officials.

The 2009 worries are different from those listed when the academy last conducted the survey in 2000. Then, biotechnology, cancer prevention, and education reform were chief concerns. Biotechnology and cancer prevention were still listed in the latest survey but they were well down the list.

STEM education was the third-most cited concern. The alignment of education with economic development, education reform, critical thinking skills, K-12 science education, and engineering education were among other education-related concerns cited.

The anonymous, mail-response survey was conducted between Dec. 17, 2008, and Jan. 12, 2009. The academy surveyed 81 public officials (a 9.5 percent survey response).

Alternative energy was cited 26 times compared with the economy and STEM education at 11 times each. When closely related topics were included, energy was listed as a concern 65 times compared with STEM education and other specific education issues 52 times and economic-related issues 19 times.

"The results of the 2009 survey are important because of leadership transitions at the local, state, and national levels and because of Ohio's scientific, technological, and educational challenges and opportunities in an unstable economy," said Lynn Elfner, the academy's chief executive officer.

Elfner said the results enable the academy to identify Ohio experts to advise Ohio lawmakers and government officials on the top issues. For example, the academy provided a roster of 64 alternative energy experts to the previous Ohio General Assembly.

Opinions are anonymous. Those surveyed include the governor, his staff, and his cabinet; members of the new Ohio General Assembly; Ohio's Congressional delegation; all county commissioners, coroners, health commissioners, and county engineers; the Ohio State Board of Education; and 50 mayors.

Each official received a checklist of more than 190 issues partially derived from previous surveys. They were asked to identify their own issues. Officials selected five or fewer issues.

Full survey results are available here.

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