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Pew: Internet Reigns in Citizen Science Research

I am a little late on two recent Pew Internet & Society reports one on podcast downloading and the other entitled “The Internet as a Resource for News and Information about Science.”

Here is the key information on podcast downloading:

Some 12% of internet users say they have downloaded a podcast so they can listen to it or view it at a later time. This finding compares to the 7% of internet users who reported podcast downloading in our February-April 2006 survey. However, few internet users are downloading podcasts with great frequency; in both surveys, just 1% report downloading a podcast on a typical day.

Compare that with how many people are viewing YouTube, and perhaps the podcast craze is a bit overstated. I, for one, spend far more time watching videos and reading stories than I do listening to news stories. Indeed, like most Americans the only time I listen to the radio is when I am in the car.

Now onto “The Internet as a Resource for News and Information about Science,” which has plenty of interesting bullet point facts. For example:


40 million Americans rely on the internet as their primary source for news and information about science.

  • When asked where they get most of their news and information about science, 20% of all Americans say they turn to the internet for most of their science news.
  • That translates to 40 million adults. This is second only to television, which is cited by 41% of Americans as the place where they get most of their science news and information
  • Newspapers and magazines are each cited by 14% as their main sources for news and information about science.

Here is more doing research for specific projects:


Each respondent to this survey received questions on one of three specific scientific topics: stem cell research, climate change, and origins of life on Earth. When asked what source they would use first if they needed to learn more about the topic, here is what they said:

  • 67% of those receiving questions about stem cell research said they would turn to the internet first for information on this topic; 11% said the library.
  • 59% of respondents receiving questions about climate change said they would turn to the internet first for information on this topic; 12% said the library.
  • 42% of those answering questions about the origins of life on Earth said they would turn to the internet first for information on this topic; 19% said the library, and 11% said the Bible or church.

There are far too many factoids like this one to chronicle:

The internet is a research tool for 87% of online users. That translates to 128 million adults.

And here is one I especially like because it demonstrates that people are not gullible information sponges:

Fully 80% of those who have gotten science news and information online have engaged in at least one of these “fact-checking” activities. Although a majority of those who get science information online feel the internet is a reliable source for checking on science information, fully half of those who use an online source for fact-checking also use both of the other means to look further into a science fact.




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