People may be intrigued by science, but science is under appreciated by the world’s population, based on 3M’s latest State of Science Index survey. According to 3M, the State of Science Index is “original, third-party research that explores global attitudes about science.” Almost 14,000 people were surveyed globally in 14 developed and emerging countries to examine perceptions of science and its positive or negative impact on society. 3M commissioned this survey in order to capture sentiments towards science, through measures of appreciation, popularity, interest level and trust versus skepticism.

Science trust index

What does the world think of science?

According to Axios‘ summary, the majority of correspondents – 87% – are fascinated by science, although 36% of people in the world think that science can only be done or accessible by geniuses. While people do not think science is boring, almost 40% of people think if science didn’t exist, their lives wouldn’t be that different! People are largely unaware of science’s role and impact on their daily lives. This is complementary with findings on skepticism around science, where nearly one-third of the global population is skeptical of science, and 20% distrusts scientists. This is indeed worrying!

So, how did Singapore fare in the State of Science Index?

Last 8 March 2018 (Thursday), 3M Singapore held a community discussion to reveal Singapore’s survey results and to discuss the implications of Singaporeans’ perceptions on science. I was invited to attend the event as a panel speaker, along side with awesome people from the arts and sciences to discuss about Singaporeans’ perception on science!

Neo Mei Lin, first Singaporean TED Fellow and marine biologist
Alvin Pang, poet, editor, and writer
Lim Boon Kiat, product developer, R&D 3M Singapore
Keziah Quek, liberal arts grad Yale-NUS formerly in art world, now in innovation
Lynette Tan, executive director, Singapore Space and Technology Association
Dave Lim, founder TEDxSingapore, TEDx Ambassador, founding curator Campus Party

3M Singapore Science Index

Science is the process of pursuing knowledge about the world and how things in the world work through logically gathering, observing, experimenting and applying truths on a particular subject. – 3M Survey Methodology on definition of Science.

Key findings for Singapore:

  • When Singaporeans hear the word science, they feel very hopeful (90%) and fascinated (87%) – this may just be the surface…
  • Science literacy is uneven in Singapore, with almost 85% of people indicating that they know ‘a little’ to ‘nothing’ about science overall.
  • Trust in science is low. Almost 1 in 3 people are skeptical of science (35%).
  • Singaporeans are more likely to believe that if science didn’t exist, their everyday lives wouldn’t be all that different (51% vs. 38% globally).
  • 30% of Singaporeans think that our country is falling behind when it comes to scientific advancements compared to other countries.
  • Science ranks low for personal career choices…
  • But, almost all Singaporean parents want their kids to know more about science (94%).
  • In Singapore, people feel generally excited about the future impact of science (67% vs. 66% globally).

The bottomline: Science needs a Champion. Science needs to be made more personable, relatable and actionable to people.

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My personal thoughts…

Wow – there is a group of Singaporeans that generally distrust scientists and science! It makes me wonder what could have caused these perceptions? Are scientists unapproachable, intimidating, and scary people? Or is it the scientists not coming out to communicate about science? While we can speculate on the reasons behind these perceptions, the survey outcomes are worrying for the future of science in Singapore. How can the scientific community improve the image of science?

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While it is challenging to change people’s mindsets about their perceptions of scary and unapproachable scientists, I think we can do more to show that the scientific community is willing to take the first step to engaging the public. For example, in the past weekend (17-18 March), I had helped co-organised a community event (The Fun Odyssea) with Our Singapore Reefs and Celebrating Singapore Shores that brought together not only the civic society, NGOs, and agencies, we also had the marine science community with us! I am so very grateful for their participation and efforts in engaging the public, even though I know that many of them are not used to talking to so many people in a day!

I know, I know… It’s hard to get the scientists out of their labs, but hey! We all got to do it for science! 🙂 Let’s all take small baby steps to champion science. As we strive to make science relatable, relevant, and fun, let’s also help to progress and build capacity for science for the next generations.

If you would like to explore the survey data in more detail, 3M has created an interactive platform to allow you to view global and country-specific results. Click here to try it out!