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Science prominence in UAE but scepticism persists

3M conducts the State of Science Index UAE

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Science prominence in UAE but scepticism persists

Every year 3M conducts the State of Science Index (SOSI) – a survey that explores global attitudes toward science. However, in 2020, 3M released multiple sets of research – one before the pandemic (pre-pandemic wave), a second during the pandemic (pandemic pulse wave); and one for the UAE region conducted between October – November – showcasing results reflecting the most current landscape and considered the extended experience of the global pandemic.

While we cannot draw direct comparisons between the various sets of the study, as they were run during different periods, we can look at the global data to add additional context to the UAE results; and there are some surprising and interesting topline findings for the region.

There are four key themes explored in the State of Science Index.

  • The image of science – this focuses on people’s perception of science in broad terms.
  • Sustainability – a focus on using science to create sustainable technologies and solutions for businesses and communities
  • STEM equity – looking at gender and race parity in science fields and exploring the possible barriers for certain groups
  • Leadership and responsibility – exploring the opportunities for collaboration and shared responsibility in the science sphere

When looking at these themes for the UAE in the global results, there aren’t many stark differences, particularly concerning sustainability or leadership and responsibility. For the latter, although the belief is that governments are key to solving societal issues, they are not expected to address these issues alone, especially when it comes to climate change.

However, one theme – the image of science, showed a surprising difference when compared globally.

science managed to gain importance in the UAE

As the pandemic spread globally in 2020, science managed to gain importance in the UAE on a personal and societal level—but scepticism is still prominent. While those surveyed see science as very important to society in general (80%) and their everyday lives (77%), more than half said that they are sceptical of science and, while we cannot make a direct comparison to the global data, it is interesting to note that scepticism was significantly lower than the 53% in UAE (vs 28% 2020 Global Pandemic Pulse).

A reason for the difference may be partly because 64% of those surveyed in the UAE only believe in science that aligns with their own personal beliefs. What is, however, most interesting about the UAE data is that too many in the UAE still rarely even think about science in their everyday life (36%) and believe that if science didn’t exist, their everyday life wouldn’t be all that different (64% vs 32% 2020 Global Pandemic Pulse).

“Even with the heightened levels of scepticism, as we face some of the world’s biggest challenges, we are encouraged that the UAE is united in believing that science will make their lives better in the future,” said Robert Nichols, MD for the Middle East and Africa at 3M.

“One thing is for certain, while barriers remain, the pandemic has primed the UAE to advocate for science more as the solution to global challenges. However, the pandemic has caused a shift with almost three-quarters of the surveyed population (74%) now willing to advocate for science. As a company grounded in science, we find this very encouraging,” notes Nichols.

The Theme of access to science

Another area of differentiation for the UAE survey was in the theme of access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Due to the pandemic, people in the UAE are more likely to agree that the world needs more people pursuing STEM-related careers to benefit society’s future: 81% (vs 74% 2020 Global Pandemic Pulse*). However, accessible education, misperceptions and inequality in STEM are obstacles that impact these results. Too many students have already been discouraged from pursuing science in school, which has only intensified over time.

“A lack of access to STEM education is a major obstacle to securing the next generation of scientists, along with the misconceptions that exist. It is for this reason that we invest in STEM initiatives across the world. It is through these interventions that we remove barriers to science education and work to support a diverse pipeline of STEM talent,” concludes Nichols.

For more information about the global 2020 SOSI Pre-Pandemic and Pandemic Pulse survey results, please visit www.3M.com/scienceindex.

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