Published: 22nd June 2021
How COVID-19 has put the spotlight back on science and scientists in India
While COVID-19 has certainly put the spotlight on the scientists searching for a vaccine, its influence goes wider. The pandemic has ignited a renewed interest in STEM careers and education
Science has the potential to solve the world’s greatest challenges, transform trade and make the world a better place. From manufacturing personal protective equipment and developing vaccines to the overall response to COVID-19, science is moving ahead of what we knew was possible, reported the State of Science Index (SOSI).
SOSI is a third-party, independent research study commissioned by 3M and conducted annually for the past four years to track attitudes towards science. The 2021 findings emphasise that there has been a significant improvement in the public image of science. Science has become more affable to people.
Trust on science
In India, 90 per cent of the respondents said that they trust science – a significant increase of three percentage points since 2020's Pre-Pandemic Survey. About 85 per cent of the people agreed that there are negative consequences to society if science is not valued while a majority of 87 per cent Indian respondents will stand up to the skeptics by defending science if someone questions it as against 75 per cent globally.
Interest in STEM careers
While COVID-19 has certainly put the spotlight on the scientists searching for a vaccine, its influence goes wider. The pandemic has ignited a renewed interest in STEM careers and education. Scientists and medical professionals are inspiring people to pursue STEM-based careers in the future, especially among younger generations. In India, 91 per cent of respondents agree that the world needs more people pursuing STEM-related careers. Due to the pandemic, about four-in-five are more inspired to pursue a STEM career that accounts for 83 per cent as against 60 per cent globally. The survey also highlights the need for greater gender diversity and inclusion in STEM. About 85 per cent of Indian respondents agree that it is important to increase diversity and inclusion in STEM fields and 83 per cent acknowledge that underrepresented minority groups often do not receive equal access to STEM education.
"Events of the past year have put a spotlight on the education gap within underserved communities," said Dr Jayshree Seth, Corporate Scientist and Chief Science Advocate, 3M. "Gender inequalities, and unequal access to a quality STEM education for under-resourced students, continue to affect economic outcomes across the globe. We must all do our part to create greater opportunities, by strengthening STEM investments, eliminating underrepresentation in STEM, and bridging the STEM talent gap so that we can all realise the promise of a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society,” said Seth.
"Science is becoming more of a uniting factor as the world moves toward a common mission to build a safer, greener, stronger, and more equitable future,” said Mike Roman, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, 3M. "The world’s confidence in science is confirmed every day as we see more and more examples of its impact, from the COVID-19 recovery to advancing sustainability, making a meaningful difference,” Roman added.
Need for immediate attention towards the health of the planet
The State of Science Index exposes a growing concern and a sense of urgency surrounding the health of the planet. India has become more environmentally conscious – even more than many of the other countries surveyed. A significant majority (87 per cent) agree that solutions to mitigate climate change need to happen immediately, and 89 per cent confirm their belief that the world should follow science to help create a more sustainable future.
Commenting on SOSI, Ramesh Ramadurai, Managing Director, 3M India, said, “At 3M, the success of our business is inextricably linked with the health of our planet. The pandemic has also brought greater attention to sustainability issues, with a focus on making more sustainable lifestyle choices. There is a lot one can do in our daily lives to bend the curve of environmental degradation. It is time we all realise the impact our action can make to change our environment.”
Partner, preempt, prepare and prosper
The survey further emphasised on the importance of cross-border and cross-sector collaboration as essential to scientific advancement in India. Approximately 84 per cent of respondents feel that countries should collaborate to create solutions based on science to address major challenges. Given the events over the past six months, the top three actions people in India most want corporations to prioritise are, prepare for future pandemics (52 per cent), provide existing employees with new skills and training for their future careers (47 per cent), and create new jobs/employment opportunities for underrepresented minority groups within their corporation (46 per cent).