No matter the challenge, people believe science will solve it, 3M survey reveals

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3M’s annual State of Science Index shows as confidence in science grows, 87% of people in UAE agree science brings hope for the future

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: From manufacturing personal protective equipment to developing vaccines to the overall response to COVID-19, science is heightening the world’s expectations for what is possible, according to the 2021 3M State of Science Index.

“Science is becoming more of a uniting factor as the world moves toward a common mission to build a safer, greener, stronger, and more equitable future,” said Mike Roman, chairman of the board and chief executive officer for 3M. “The world’s confidence in science is confirmed every day as we see more and more examples of its impact, from the COVID-19 recovery to advancing sustainability, making a meaningful difference.” 

Whether being hopeful that science will save us from the pandemic – 87 percent agree – or believing science will be the reason 2021 is better than 2020 (88%), more people appreciate what science can do.

“We are at a critical juncture today where science and innovation are driving society forwards. Globally, we have placed our faith in science-backed solutions such as the vaccines to fight against a global pandemic. Here in the UAE, science was behind its first Mission to Mars. Locally, 3M has been able to contribute to the curiosity and scientific discovery of schoolchildren through our Science At Home initiative. I am proud to be part of a company that advocates for STEM. From my perspective, scientific expertise will remain at the forefront of an ongoing global response in the aim to build a safer, stronger, and more equitable future,” stated Laszlo Svinger, Vice President and Managing Director, 3M Middle East, and Africa.

The State of Science Index (SOSI) is a third-party, independent research study commissioned by 3M and conducted annually for the past four years to track attitudes towards science. The 2021 study was fielded from February to March and includes 17 countries – making it the largest data pool to date. It is the second edition of SOSI conducted during the pandemic. 

More trust, but skepticism continues to be high 

The public image of science has improved, again, with trust in science remaining at the highest level recorded in the four years since the State of Science Index began tracking it. In UAE, 90% trust science today, consistent with the 2020 Pandemic Pulse survey results, 82% agree there are negative consequences to society if science is not valued. UAE is willing to speak up for science: 82% would defend science if someone is questioning it (vs. 75% globally). 

Skepticism in science continues to be high with 52%, making the UAE among the most skeptical of all countries surveyed in SOSI 2021. 58% of those who are skeptical of science today say the pandemic has caused them to question science (vs. 44% globally). Among those who are skeptical of science, they cite also too many conflicting opinions by scientists (60% vs. 50% globally), that it is just their nature to question things (53% vs. 43% globally), that science is influenced by corporate agendas (50% vs. 41% globally) among the top reasons why. 

Will appreciation continue in the UAE?

Belief that science is very important to their everyday life dropped from 77% in the 2020 Pandemic Pulse to 68% today and belief that science is very important to society in general dropped from 80% to 75%.

The pandemic has ignited a renewed interest in STEM careers and education.

A new-found enthusiasm for science in youth suggests that the image of science may continue to improve as younger generations age. Scientists and medical professionals are inspiring people to pursue STEM-based careers in the future, especially among younger generations. Over three-quarters (79%) are more inspired to pursue a STEM career due to the pandemic. And, while 89% agree the world needs more people pursuing STEM careers, barriers to entry remain. 

“Events of the past year have put a spotlight on the education gap within underserved communities,” said Dr. Jayshree Seth, corporate scientist and chief science advocate, 3M. “Gender inequalities, and unequal access to a quality STEM education for under-resourced students, continue to affect economic outcomes across the globe. We must all do our part to create greater opportunities, by strengthening STEM investments, eliminating underrepresentation in STEM, and bridging the STEM talent gap so that we can all realize the promise of a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society.”

Amid ongoing social justice issues, the world is eager to see a shift in inequities for under-represented groups within STEM. Most respondents (82%) agree that it is essential to increase diversity in STEM, recognizing it enables greater global collaboration, innovative ideas, and new and improved approaches to existing research techniques. Still, (88%) acknowledge that there is more needs to be done to keep women and girls engaged in STEM education.  

3M recently announced actions to build even greater equity in its communities, business practices and workplaces, setting a new global, education-focused goal. The company will advance economic equity by creating five million unique STEM and Skilled Trades learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025.  3M also released a docuseries for the public this June. “Not the Science Type,” features the stories of four female scientists with different careers as they challenge stereotypes and confront and overcome gender, racial, and age discrimination. 

Sustainability is an issue that science can solve, and solutions are urgently needed.

The State of Science Index exposes a growing concern and a sense of urgency surrounding the health of the planet. A significant majority (88%) agree that solutions to mitigate climate change need to happen immediately, and 89% confirm their belief that the world should follow science to help make the world more sustainable. 

This February, 3M announced plans to invest $1 billion over the next 20 years to accelerate new environmental goals, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, reducing water use by 25% at facilities, and return higher-quality water to the environment after use in manufacturing operations. In April, 3M announced an additional new goal to reduce its use of virgin fossil-based plastic (new plastic made from petroleum) by 125 million pounds within five years.

For the UAE, the concept of sustainability extends beyond climate change – encompassing air quality and clean water solutions. In the aim to create a sustainable future, 39% of the respondent believe science should prioritize solving water conservations methods and 37% improving air quality. 

“The urgency for improving the health of our planet and its people comes through loud and clear,” said Gayle Schueller, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer, 3M. “By working with customers, businesses, governments, and international parties, we can address environmental challenges around the globe and build a more sustainable future.” 

Cross-collaboration on science-based solutions is critical.

Perhaps because the public has experienced firsthand the benefits of collaboration between countries in the past year, there is agreement (88%) that the world should work together on scientific solutions to address pressing issues, including future pandemics and climate change.

Collaboration between public and private sectors to advance science is overwhelmingly supported (89%). People in UAE most want corporations to prioritize preparing for the next pandemic (56%), indicating a concern for future outbreaks. Other priorities for companies include investment in innovations that mitigate the effects of climate change (40%) and removal of barriers to quality STEM education for the underrepresented (54%). 

Over the past year, 3M has joined the UN to raise awareness of epidemic preparedness using science-based information and best practices for disease prevention and response. Most recently, 3M released a white paper on best practices for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) stockpiling programs. 

About 3M:

At 3M, we apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily as our employees connect with customers all around the world.

State of Science Survey Methodology 

3M’s State of Science Index presents original, independent, and nationally representative (based on census demographics) research in 2021, conducted by global research firm Ipsos through a combination of online and offline interviews. The 2021 Survey was conducted February 2-March 23, 2021 in 17 countries among 1,000 general population adults (18+) in each of the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, UAE, UK and the U.S. At the 95% confidence level, the margin of error is +/- 0.8 percentage points at the global, 17-country level and +/- 3.1 percentage points for each individual country. To compare across all waves of SOSI, a 10-country tracking average was used which has a margin of error of +/- 1.0 percentage points. Countries within this average include Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, UK, and the U.S.