The British Academy today publishes polling finding academics are among the most trusted professionals in the country. A YouGov poll, commissioned by the national body for the humanities and social sciences, reveals that nearly 50% of UK adults said they would trust academics the most to deliver information in news stories on the television, in stark contrast to politicians (1%), businesspeople (4%) and journalists (7%).
The British Academy finds the most popular words in describing academics to be “knowledgeable” (65%) and “well-read” (54%). Yet despite the positive perceptions, nearly two in five (39%) say that they have little or no knowledge of academics or their work.
In a bid to change this, the British Academy is throwing open its doors to the public this weekend for its fifth annual Summer Showcase, a free two-day festival of research exhibits, pop-up talks, workshops and performances. The Showcase offers the public a chance to explore the Academy’s Grade I listed Georgian terrace, overlooking the Mall, and meet the researchers behind cutting-edge research in the humanities and social sciences.
Visitors will be able to enjoy an immersive VR experience; meet and interact via livestream with a community centre in Turkey; hear why accents should be classified as protected characteristics; learn calligraphy; cook up a conspiracy theory; and learn more about the spatial brain by contributing to a collaborative LEGO display.
The survey also explored which subjects people are most interested in studying. It shows that the subjects the public would most like to study at university remain unchanged: humanities and social sciences are favourites for almost a third of people (30%) as they were in a similar 2019 poll. Respondents to our 2022 survey profess an increased interest since the pandemic in History (38%), Modern Foreign Languages (22%) and English language or literature (20%), suggesting that downtime during the pandemic has revitalised the nation’s fascination with these important subjects.
Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy, said:
“This shows that, contrary to the rhetoric of recent years, people haven’t had enough of experts. Academic research helps us make sense of the world and is vital to our understanding of humanity, nature and society. This year’s free Summer Showcase – our first in-person for three years – will give the public a chance to meet some of the brightest minds in the SHAPE subjects (the Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy) and discover what academic research is all about.”