LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly half of Britons believe in aliens and almost 80 percent say cancer is the disease which most needs a vaccine, a poll by one of the world’s oldest scientific institutions showed on Tuesday.
Britain’s Royal Society found that 66 percent of respondents to a survey to mark its 350th anniversary said that disease control and eradication should be a top priority for science.
Around 53 percent said they would like science to enable them to extend their lifespan.
Royal Society President Martin Rees said the lives of modern humans are hugely different from those of our ancestors because of the scientific advances made since the society was founded in 1660, when science was in its infancy.
“Science is an unending quest for understanding and over the coming 350 years our appetite for discovery could see us develop a cure for cancer, a solution to climate change, and even discover extra-terrestrial life,” he said in a statement.
In terms of developing new vaccinations - after cancer, preventing HIV/AIDS was seen as important for 60 percent of the 2,000 people surveyed and with malaria 37 percent.
“There can be no better way to celebrate the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary than to look to the future of science, built on the foundations of today’s cutting-edge research,” Rees said.
Nearly half of people in Britain (44 percent) believe in the existence of aliens, according to the poll.
Over a third think scientists should be actively searching for and attempting to make contact with aliens, a figure that rises to 46 percent for male respondents. However, fewer than one in 10 people believe that space exploration should be a top priority for the scientific community.
After health issues, climate change was the next highest priority for the public with a third of those questioned considering it important. This figure rises to 44 percent among 18 to 24-year-olds, suggesting that younger generations are more in tune with the threat of global warming.
As the curtain falls on the 350th anniversary year, the Royal Society is publishing “Science sees further,” a new report examining the most pressing issues facing the world today and asks what the future of science will hold.
Launched on Tuesday, it includes chapters on whether we are alone in the universe, how we can manage the increasing demands on our planet’s resources, and whether science can save the lives of millions with new vaccines.
Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Steve Addison