3M’s annual State of Science Index shows that China holds highest trust in science among all 17 countries surveyed, and 97% of Chinese agreeing science brings hope for the future.
SHANGHAI, June 18, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — One year after the pandemic and the consensus is clear—to overcome the challenges and reclaim a sense of normalcy, science is the way forward. According to the annual 3M State of Science Index (SOSI) survey, trust in science has significantly grown amongst Chinese citizens since the outbreak of one of the most challenging health crises of our time. Now more than ever, people in China are turning to science to rejuvenate their lives and enable the road to recovery.
“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 – 97 percent agree (vs. 85% globally) – or believing science will be the reason 2021 is better than 2020 (98 percent agree vs. 87 percent globally), more people appreciate what science can do.
“As attention turns to vaccines, people say they are counting on science to get the pandemic under control. This is especially true in China, where science is taking the reigns to steer the future in the right direction. Now, more people than ever are placing confidence in science to solve some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as climate change, gender inequality, and global cooperation”, said Jack Xiong, Head of R&D Operations for 3M China. “The State of Science Index indicates that China’s interest in science is higher than most countries and increasing. Science is seen to be beneficial to the future of society and, as a result, people are placing a greater emphasis on areas like STEM education.”
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.
Near complete trust in science brings hope
This year’s survey shows that science is instilling hope in people in China and around the world. Pointing to a promising post-pandemic future, a high percent (91%) of Chinese agree young people are more engaged in science and science-related issues than ever before, compared with 69% globally. The new-found enthusiasm for science amongst youth suggests that the image of science will continue to improve as younger generations age. Where there is trust, there is hope. In China, 97% of people say that science gives them hope for the future compared to 89% of people globally; 96% agree there are negative consequences to society if science is not valued compared to 85% globally.
Trust in science at the highest level since 2018
Following a year of living through a pandemic, trust in science significantly rose in China to the highest it has even been since the SOSI survey first launched four years ago. With 97% of people in China saying they trust science today, China places the highest trust in science among all 17 countries surveyed.
A high level of confidence in science is likely influencing people’s behaviors too, which will in turn greatly contribute to recovery. A large majority of people in China confirm that they always wear a mask in public settings (86%), wash their hands frequently (81%) and avoid large gatherings (75%). A significant majority (85% vs. 75% globally) stand up to skeptics by defending science if someone questions it – and this jumps to 90% among adult Gen Z in China.
Advancing science by closing the equity gap in STEM
The latest SOSI survey indicates that interest in STEM education has is strong this year, with nearly all Chinese agreeing that the world needs more people pursuing STEM related careers (96% vs. 90% globally). Due to the pandemic, nearly nine-in-ten people (88%) in China are more inspired to pursue a STEM career. Meanwhile, only 60% of people globally say they feel more inclined to pursue a STEM career.
However, female and minority group underrepresentation in STEM fields is still very much prevalent in China and globally—and virtually everyone is taking notice. As a call for equality, 96% of Chinese agree it is important to increase diversity and inclusion in STEM fields. In fact, both men and women agree that more needs to be done to address STEM inequities women face. In order to address inequalities, we have to level the playing field. In China, 81% of people acknowledge that underrepresented minority groups often do not receive equal access to STEM education (73% globally).
People in China recognize that solving inequality requires significant support and starts from within. According to the SOSI survey, 97% people in China (89% globally) believe corporations have a key role to play in improving diversity in STEM fields. Of those who believe corporations should be involved in supporting STEM education, the top actions they are looking for corporations to prioritize include creating resources for kids and teachers (45%), investing in inspiring kids to love science (43%) and helping to ensure underrepresented students have equal access to STEM (40%).
3M recently set new global, education-focused goals to build greater equity in its communities, business practices and workplaces. 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. While in China, 3M established the STEM pilot project since 2013, inviting 3M employees to bring together the company’s innovative technologies with STEM concepts to create classroom content. To date, more than 900 volunteers have participated in related activities, and contributed more than 2,400 hours to bring STEM education for more than 5,000 students of migrant workers.
Placing high priority on science to address environmental concerns
People in China and across the globe are displaying high rates of awareness for sustainability actions, and science is being seen as the way forward to address environmental concerns. Virtually all Chinese (96%) report that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more environmentally conscious, a figure that is well above other countries and at 77% globally. Across all generations in China, people believe that everyone should follow science to help make the world more sustainable (98% vs. 89% globally).
Most people in China have become more concerned about environmental issues over the past year, and the top three issues in descending order are air pollution (78%), climate change (76%), and intensifying natural disasters (73%). In terms of climate change, there is a sense of urgency across the globe. Nearly everyone in China (97%) can agree that better solutions to mitigate climate change need to be put in place immediately (vs. 89% globally), and 98% (vs. 89% globally) confirm their belief that people 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% in its facilities, and returning higher-quality water to the environment after use in manufacturing operations.
“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.”
Paving the way forward through cross-collaboration on science-based solutions
To set this all-in motion, people are noting that countries, as well as public and private sectors within country borders, need to foster collaboration in science. In China, 98% of people feel that countries should collaborate to create solutions based in science to address major challenges. What’s more, 98% of people believe that there should be more collaboration across public and private sectors to advance science.
Collaboration is seen as essential to scientific advancement, and corporations are expected to help. In light of recent events, including the pandemic, the vaccine, natural disasters, global economic recession, people in China most want corporations to collaborate with governments to advocate for regulations/policies that help solve global challenges, prepare for future pandemics, and eliminate barriers to accessing a quality education for underrepresented students in STEM.
Looking forward, 98% of people in China are hopeful that 2021 will be a better year because of science. Once the pandemic is under control, activities that people in China are most looking forward to are as simple as going about their daily lives without wearing a mask and traveling. And in the longer term, with a greater commitment to STEM education and a push to close the equality gaps in related fields, there is hope for a more sustainable future that is supported by global cooperation. In China, a great number of people are confident that science is not only key to recovery from the pandemic, but will also help create a better future for all of society.
The State of Science Index survey explores global attitudes toward science, taking the pulse on how people think and feel about the field and its impact on the world around us. This year’s survey is our fifth wave of SOSI and our largest to-date.
2021 SOSI is a 17-country survey fielded February-March 2021 among 1,000 general population consumers in each country:
- Each individual country has a margin of error of +/- 3.10 percentage points at the 95% confidence level
- All global percentages cited refer to the 17-country average except for tracking questions
- For tracking questions, the 10-country average is used, so we can accurately compare data across all past waves
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