Trust in science high, but misinformation threatens future: 3M

  • Six in 10 respondents agree science is important in everyday life 
  • Eight in 10 want to hear more from scientists about their work

Trust in science high, but misinformation threatens future: 3MPeople in Asia Pacific continue to trust science, but this could be undermined by misinformation, but still, people see opportunities for science to solve social issues, including climate change, and equity in healthcare and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), according to a poll by 3M.

In a statement, the company its "3M State of Science Index 2022," is a global science perception survey that is fielded across 17 countries around the world, with about 1,000 respondents from each country.

Jim Falteisek, senior vice president, 3M Asia corporate affairs and managing director of 3M Korea, “Society continues to value and trust in science even as we enter post-pandemic recovery, but we need to continue paving ways for credible science communication, to connect the dots between science and issues that matter the most.

“We are excited to launch results from our 2022 State of Science Index survey, taking the pulse on how people think and feel about the field, its impact on the world around us, and how we can bridge these critical gaps,” he said.

The survey highlighted that as we emerge from the pandemic, trust in science (91%) and scientists (87%) remains extremely high among Asia-Pacific countries, with more than half agreeing that science is very important to them in their everyday life (57% vs global average of 52%).

Trust in science high, but misinformation threatens future: 3M

However, most people in the Asia-Pacific region believe there is widespread misinformation in traditional news (i.e., in online, print or broadcast/ TV news outlets) (71%) and/or social media (85%), threatening scientific credibility, it said. (pix, below)

In fact, respondents here are still more likely to be skeptical of science than those globally (36% vs. 29% globally), the survey noted.

Still, APAC recognises that science is indispensable in society, and a large majority (81%) believe there are negative consequences if people do not value science. 

Public health crises (60%); more division within society (55% vs. 57% globally); and increase in severity of climate change effects (54% vs. 53% globally) were identified as top consequences if people cannot trust news stories about science, 3M said. 

It added that 82% of APAC also want to hear more from scientists about their work, spotlighting a clear opportunity for science communication to lead the way forward.  

According to the survey, an overwhelming majority of APAC respondents said they were concerned that they or a loved one may one day be displaced from where they live due to extreme weather related to climate change (84% vs. 79% globally). 

It added that despite these climate concerns, those in Asia-Pacific are slightly less likely to take action themselves. 

Compared to the global population, the survey noted they are less likely to report having taken actions to become more sustainable over the last six months, even for the most common ones, which include: (1) reducing use of plastic (51% vs. 53% globally); (2) recycling materials (47% vs. 54% globally); and (3) reducing water use (41% vs. 48% globally). 

When it comes to companies, the top actions respondents here wanted them to take to build a more sustainable future include: (1) reducing the amount of plastic used in products (58%, on par with global); (2) using recycled and renewable materials in products developed (53% vs. 54% globally); and (3) reducing waste created by facilities (52%, on par with global).

3M said it has long heeded this call through its Strategic Sustainability Framework, which guides its science to advance the circular economy, improve the company’s environmental footprint, and create a more positive world through science. 

In Asia-Pacific, addressing healthcare disparities in access and the root causes of health are top priorities, the 3M State of Science Index found.

When it comes to advancements in social justice and change, ensuring access to quality healthcare regardless of age, gender, race/ ethnicity, socioeconomic status, location, and other factors is a top priority for people in APAC, with 78% identifying it as a top priority for society in the next five years, the research indicated.  

This is closely followed by addressing the non-traditional root causes of health within underserved and underrepresented communities, which garnered 73% of the votes, it said. 

People in the Asia-Pacific region also expect corporations to prioritise collaboration with the healthcare industry and other entities when it comes to (1) improving the quality of care (51%); and (2) addressing the root causes of health within underserved and underrepresented communities (47%).

According to the survey, diversity and inclusion in STEM is another key area that needs work. Eighty five per cent surveyed in APAC agreed that there are barriers to students pursuing a STEM education. 

Trust in science high, but misinformation threatens future: 3M

Top barriers include: (1) lack of access  (78% vs. 74% globally); (2) inability to afford a strong STEM education (48% vs global average of 47%); (3) students having too many personal responsibilities to focus on a STEM education (i.e., having to make money, chores, babysitting family members) (43% vs. 37% globally)

A majority also believe underrepresented minorities often do not receive equal access to STEM education (74% vs. 71% globally). Women, in particular, face many challenges throughout their STEM journey, the research said, adding that across the region, 83% agree that more needs to be done to encourage and keep women/girls engaged in STEM education. 

Meanwhile, 65% also believe that women are leaving STEM job positions because they do not receive enough support, and 62% say women/girls are more discouraged from pursuing engineering than other science fields, it added.

The survey highlighted that people in APAC are calling on the science community and companies to increase STEM equity and representation in their workforce. 

Looking forward, people in the region are excited about future technologies, the research stated.

It said 75% think artificial intelligence (AI) is an exciting technology that impacts their lives daily (vs. 65% globally). It added that roughly one-third (31% vs. 28% globally) of APAC believe self-driving cars will become a normal part of life within the next five years, and 79% (vs. 71% globally) are likely to accept a ride in an autonomous, or self-driving car where there is no human driver.

Yet, 53% still worry advancements in AI within the next five years will cause them to lose their job (vs. 47% globally).

The research highlighted that many (73%) worry about being able to keep up in a job market that is becoming increasingly dependent on digital skills (vs. 64% globally). 

The survey stressed that employers are key to allaying these fears, as roughly nine-in-ten respondents believe that employers should provide financial support or reimbursement for upskilling. 


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