Since 2018, 3M has launched the annual State of Science Index to track attitudes about science through multi-country original research—but in 2020, we began living in a very different world. Because of last year’s global pandemic, we released two waves of data at once in 2020, which you can explore side-by-side: one from our typical global survey, fielded pre-pandemic in August-October 2019, the other from a pulse survey conducted in the summer of 2020, after the pandemic hit.
In wave three of the 3M State of Science Index, science skepticism officially became a growing trend. Based on global data from the Index, the trajectory of skepticism increased over three consecutive years (29% in 2018 to 32% in 2019 to 35% 2020 Pre-Pandemic).
In summer 2020, against the backdrop of COVID-19, the trend reversed itself. A world that was becoming increasingly skeptical of science appeared to be waking up to its relevance and importance—skepticism, at 28%, declined for the first time in three years, and trust in science climbed to 89%, the highest since the State of Science Index began.
There are other optimistic signs too. Those who only believe science that aligns with their personal beliefs is down a significant 6 points since the 2019 survey, and slightly more than half (54%) are now more likely to advocate for science due to the pandemic. This is important, considering that before the pandemic just 20% said they stand up for science when debating its merits with others.
But the needle hasn’t moved on everything. Nearly two-thirds (63%) rarely think about the impact science has on their everyday lives—and one-third (32%) still believe their everyday lives “wouldn’t be that different” if science didn’t exist.
When it comes to solving future global challenges, access to STEM education is considered a critical piece of the puzzle. To address these ongoing global challenges, we must inspire the next generation to pursue STEM. This can be done through teaching science in a more engaging way, showing students how science gives them a platform to make the world better, and giving students a better understanding of the spectrum of career opportunities in science. Through 3M's Science at Home, children can access e-learning material, coupled with engaging and educational DIY science experiments designed to reinforce core scientific principles. This underlines 3M's commitment to helping teachers, students and parents adapt to new distance learning routines amid the pandemic.
Out of the 82% who believe there are negative consequences to society if people do not value science, 67% believe negative environmental impact is one of the top consequences of concern.
According to the 2020 pre-pandemic survey, the top 5 issues science should prioritize to create a sustainable future are reducing waste (46%), reducing the world's reliance on fossil fuels (39%), water conservation (37%), improving air quality (36%), and designing a more circular economy (36%).
You can access The State of Science Index data to see attitudes to science, and we invite you to explore insights country-by-country through our explorer tool. We hope you’ll share and discuss the research. What do you think they mean to science today and in the future? View the 2020 survey explorer. For an overview of the combined global results, download our 2020 pdf here (2.11 MB).
For the last three years, 3M has conducted the annual State of Science Index to track attitudes to science through multi-country original research, presenting original, independent and nationally representative research conducted in a multitude of countries. Since 2018, it has been one of the largest, most global studies to explore attitudes to science and enables 3M to track and benchmark shifts in attitudes about science over time, using this first year as a baseline.
Due to recent global events, two waves of data were released at once in 2020: one from our typical global survey, fielded pre-pandemic in August-October 2019, the other from a pulse survey conducted in the summer of 2020, after the pandemic hit.
The first wave – called the 2020 Pre-Pandemic Survey – was fielded a few months before the pandemic hit, completed in October of 2019. It marks our third year of exploring attitudes to science and builds on two prior years of research (fielded in 2017 and 2018 and reported in 2018 and 2019, respectively). The second wave – called the 2020 Pandemic Pulse – was fielded in July-August 2020, about six months into the pandemic. This research captures a snapshot of how science is perceived in this moment in time, against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak. It enables us to compare and contrast current attitudes around science against sentiment captured before the pandemic.
Data from the 2020 Pre-Pandemic Survey can be viewed as a 14-country, global average, or individually by country. Countries include: US, Canada, UK, Germany, Poland, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, China, India, and South Africa.
Data from the 2020 Pandemic Pulse Survey can be viewed as a 11-country, global average, or individually by country. Countries include: US, Canada, UK, Germany, Poland, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and China. Following the global launch, the survey was fielded in Mexico and UAE, although these countries are not included in the global average.
At the 95% confidence level, the margin of error for the 2020 Pre-Pandemic Survey on a 14-country average is +/- 0.83 percentage points, and +/- 0.94 percentage points on the 11-country average. To compare results over-year, a 9-country tracking average was used, given France and Saudi Arabia were replaced with South Korea and Spain - which has a margin of error of +/- 1.03 percentage points.
In our Science Champions podcast series, we discuss issues related to the global perception of science with some of the brightest minds in the field.