Consensus

Social consensus is a crucial issue for research development and application. It is easily understandable that the greater the interest and the approval a population holds for a certain research domain, the higher the possibilities that that research will be supported. This support will manifest itself not only through research funding, but also in the processes that concern the research being carried out and applied.

Social consensus for research can very often not be an explicit issue. To get an idea of its importance, one can think about television programs organised to raise funds for medical research into particular, and sometimes very rare, illnesses. Looking at one of this programs one can easily understand that the fact that most people feel involved with the researcher's goals makes it possible to raise quite large sums of money, while at the same time ever increasing the interest of people for this kind of research.

It can be quite interesting to reflect on this striking observation: a population's health depends greatly on a safe and clean environment, having clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, good shelter and so on; we also know that the incidence of many illnesses is reduced by living in a healthy environment. Nevertheless it is much easier for the general public to get concerned and involved over certain specific illnesses rather than over issues that can have a much greater influence for the health of entire populations, not to say for the entire global population.

Climate changes can adversely affect the life of millions of people. But to date we haven't seen any television shows raising funds for research on this very subject. How can we understand the scarce involvement and activation level towards issues that can have a massive impact on the public's well -being? Is there a correct distribution of resources with respect to the relative importance of the various problems? From this simple example one can realize the fundamental role of social consensus and its relevance for the development of different scientific domains.

Social consensus can be regarded as an expression of the level at which research goals are shared and understood. That is, there are both an emotional and a cognitive side to the building of consensus.

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