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3M's study reveals Chinese display confidence towards scientific advancements

Despite skepticism regarding the everyday relevance of science, the Chinese people are still eager to embrace the field and learn more
2019-03-22 13:36 364

SHANGHAI, March 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- While skepticism still abounds, people around the world are optimistic about the future of science. These findings and many more were revealed by global science and innovation company 3M (MMM) through the 2019 State of Science Index (SOSI). The independent 14-country study in its second year, having been commissioned by 3M since 2018, revealed that science needs more advocates now than ever, with global skepticism rising by 3 percentage points even with 87% believing that we need science to solve the world's problems. Similarly, the Chinese people remain optimistic about the future of science--51% believe that the best days of science are now compared to 45% in 2018

The study's findings point to both challenges and opportunities for increasing science appreciation.

Challenges:

  • Like much of the world, only 22% of the Chinese people stand up for science when debating its merits, a figure on par with global peers' 20%.
  • Moreover, the Chinese people are less likely to think that science is very important to their everyday lives (31% vs. 46% globally).

Opportunities:

  • Chinese people are receptive to science, with 67% expressing curiosity, rather than intimidation or indifference, in the field; that said, 31% did indicate indifference compared to 18% globally.
  • Most compellingly, 88% of the Chinese people expressed interest in learning more (vs. 85% globally) despite 93% considering themselves ill-versed in the field.

Interest in Science is Fueled by Human Connection in China

The State of Science Index suggests that connecting the dots between science and its positive impact on humanity is an important driver of interest in and support for science.

In the words of Mike Roman, 3M Chief Executive Officer, "The vast majority of people see the same opportunity with science that we see every day at 3M. The world needs science more than ever to help solve the toughest challenges facing the planet. At the same time, science needs advocates who can unite to show how the field makes a difference in people's lives. At 3M, we are strengthening our commitment to creating a better world through our own technology capabilities, while inspiring others to see the power of science, including our significant investments in STEM education. For nearly 50 years, 3M has created and funded programs to support STEM education, promote STEM equity and develop the workforce of tomorrow."

Like the rest of the world, 59% of the Chinese people who are interested in science are fascinated because they believe scientific advancements will benefit future generations. The belief that science will solve major world issues (39% vs. 42% globally) and that it will help them live longer, healthier lives (41% vs. 40% globally) are also a top drivers of science interest. Specifically, the Chinese people most want science to help solve healthcare issues (46%) and are excited for, not afraid of, medical advances that will eliminate chronic diseases like cancer (86% vs. 87% globally).

Bolstering Accessibility and Relatability with Exceptional Communication

Building on how to make science and scientists more universally appealing, the survey reveals an opportunity to break down barriers to science comprehension and appreciation. The primary barriers are accessibility and relatability, both of which can be solved via communications best practices. Globally, most people agree that scientists should make science more relatable to their everyday lives (84%) and talk about it in an easy to understand way (88%).

Spotlighting science's relatability issue, Chinese respondents were less likely to believe that science is very important for society (53% vs. 60% globally), their local community (32% vs. 47% globally), their everyday life (31% vs. 46% globally), and their family's everyday life (30% vs. 42% globally). Nevertheless, trust in scientists around the world and in China is still strong. The majority of respondents were more likely to believe information coming from a scientist than to be skeptical of it (86% vs. 80% globally).

As noted by Dr. Ming Cheng, Vice President of R&D, 3M Greater China Area, "While we foresee challenges, we are overall invigorated by the Chinese people's trust towards scientists. While there is a gap between China and its global peers, we also see an opportunity--an opportunity to popularize science by making it relatable and relevant. The key here is humanizing science."  

Tapping into Chinese People's Optimism in Science to Advance a Better Life

As science continues discovering more solutions for a better life, the Chinese people are less likely to find science boring (31% vs. 35% in 2018) and unnecessary to understand as an adult (40% vs. 45% in 2018) compared to 2018. This sentiment is underscored by Chinese respondents' willingness to embrace transformative scientific advancements compared to the world. 52% of the Chinese people would choose a human assistant over a robot assistant (48%) compared to 74% globally who would choose a human over a robot. Only 20% of the Chinese people are more afraid than excited of robots in every workplace (vs. 52% globally), and most are also excited for gene editing (61%) compared to a minority of global peers (35%).

"As we think about better communicating science breakthroughs and their potential positive impact, we need to focus on the benefits to mankind and show how science and technology improves lives," said John Banovetz, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at 3M. "Science promises we can address our most difficult global challenges -- and by doing so, we create a brighter, more productive, and healthier future for the next generation." 

The Path Forward: Humanize, Educate, Advocate

As the SOSI revealed that, aside from funding, China views inadequate education (33%) as the primary barrier for the next generation of scientists in 2019, 3M will solve the problem and lead the charge in humanizing science by galvanizing supporters to advocate for the field. Within China, 3M not only supported the children of migrant workers to cultivate innovation by starting a Youth Spotlight summer camp, but the company also co-operated with NGOs and schools to nurture teenagers' awareness in science. In 2018, 3M set up the STEM pilot project and invited 3M employees to combine the company's innovative technologies with STEM concepts to create classroom content. 3M also plans to open its China R&D center which will assist customers and students to as they begin their journey to become future scientists. Through these programs and many more, 3M has laid a solid communication foundation in 2018 which it will continue building upon in 2019 to further humanize and advocate for science.

Full study data, including individual country breakdowns across 14 countries and the ability for individuals to explore the data further can be found at 3M.com/scienceindex.

About 3M

At 3M, we apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily. With $33 billion in sales, our 93,000 employees connect with customers all around the world. Learn more about 3M's creative solutions to the world's problems at www.3M.com or on Twitter @3M or @3MNews.

About 3M China

3M China was founded in November 1984 as the first wholly foreign-owned enterprise in China to be established outside of the special economic zones. To date, 3M China has established 12 companies, 10 production bases, 27 local offices, 4 technology centers, 2 research and development centers, employing over 8,200 staff across the country.

Survey Methodology

An independent global research firm conducted the study between July 13 and September 10, 2018 and surveyed 14,025 adults across 14 countries. The survey was conducted through a combination of online and offline interviews. In each country, around 1,000 people aged 18 and over were surveyed. The countries included in the study are: Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. The sample for each country was representative of the national population based on age, gender, region and ethnicity (where applicable). With a confidence level of 95 percent, the margin of error for the 14 country total is +/- 0.83 percentage points.

Source: 3M China
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