EPSRC publishes the results of public dialogue on quantum technologies

EPSRC publishes the results of public dialogue on quantum technologies
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The results of a public dialogue on quantum technologies, commissioned by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK, have been published.

The research, carried out in late 2017, was done to have a better understanding of how the public views and feels about quantum technologies that are currently being developed by researchers, and their potential applications.

EPSRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “EPSRC has a strong commitment to responsible research and innovation and we were conscious that quantum technologies are still quite new to the wider world. We therefore thought that it would be appropriate to gauge how people felt about the potential impacts of new systems, devices and products involving quantum principles. We are very grateful to all the participants both from the public and stakeholder groups as well as the academics who took the time to help explain their work and inform the process.”

What were the aims of the evaluation?

The main aims of the public dialogue were:

  • To explore public perceptions of quantum technologies – including exploring public aspirations, values, priorities and concerns;
  • To engage and inform the public about quantum technology – including devices that will emerge from the quantum technology community;
  • To gather public experience and opinion on a full range of quantum technology issues;
  • To seek opinion on applications and uses of quantum devices and technology to identify new directions; and
  • To use the results of the dialogue to inform research and innovation priorities.

The dialogue was highly exploratory and contributed to the first substantive knowledge of public attitudes to quantum technologies and their applications.

What are some of the key findings?

The research took place in four UK cities, York, Oxford, Glasgow, and Birmingham. Some of the key findings included a wide familiarity with the word ‘quantum’, however, after this there was low knowledge of what quantum was or about the technologies.

Participants in the study generally held a limited set of surface-level associations, broadly relating to ‘advanced technology’ and science/physics.

Other key findings included:

  • Limited exposure to information about quantum technologies had led to an initial feeling of neutrality towards them which meant that participants were yet to develop an emotional response to the topic;
  • Greater exposure to information about quantum technology generally saw participants become more engaged and excited by the range of potential benefits associated with quantum technologies – particularly once they understood how various quantum technologies could impact upon and be relevant to their own lives; and
  • Quantum technologies were seen to have a wide range of benefits for individuals and society. The most engaging quantum technologies were those which participants understood to have the greatest potential impact on individuals and society.

The full report is available here.

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