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    The future looks bright for UK science

    April 08, 2019
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    The future looks bright for UK science

    3M has unveiled the results of the 2019 State of Science Index (SOSI), revealing that Britain is a nation of would-be scientists with aspirations for their children to choose a career in science.

    The future looks bright for UK science

    3M has unveiled the results of the 2019 State of Science Index (SOSI), revealing that Britain is a nation of would-be scientists with aspirations for their children to choose a career in science.

    3M has unveiled the results of the 2019 State of Science Index (SOSI), revealing that Britain is a nation of would-be scientists with aspirations for their children to choose a career in science.

    • 2019 State of Science Index (SOSI)

      More than half of Brits (48 per cent) said they would have pursued a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) career, but were held back by a lack of confidence. Despite, this, 84 per cent of respondents said that they would encourage their own children to opt for a science-based career.

      3M’s global science survey, an independently researched annual survey of more than 14,000 people across 14 countries, also highlighted that those involved in science must communicate more effectively to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals.

      Designed to gauge shifting global attitudes toward science, the study found that the biggest factors holding Brits back from pursuing a STEM career include a perceived lack of confidence in their academic ability.

      The research shows that 22 per cent of Brits who did not pursue a STEM career didn’t realise the breadth of career opportunities that an education in science could lead to. For example, while 78 per cent of Brits would identify an astronaut as a STEM career, fewer recognised that nurses (54 per cent), plumbers (39 per cent) and farmers (35 per cent) also require an education in science.

      Together, these factors risk undermining the UK’s status as a global leader in science. The findings suggest that beyond preventing people from embarking upon a STEM career, ineffective communication around science means some Brits don’t think that the UK recognises science as a priority either. Sixty per cent believe that other countries place a higher value on science than the UK, while a third (33 per cent) think the UK is falling behind other nations in terms of scientific advancements.

      “The UK has always punched well above its weight internationally when it comes to creating and developing world-changing science,” said Adam Newland, head, corporate research systems laboratory. “The results of our second SOSI survey give us cause for concern, as well as optimism when it comes to the scientific future of this country.

      “It's clear some of the population hold negative views of science as a discipline and career option. However, for such a high figure to say they would like a STEM career for their children makes it clear that the ambition to lead the world in scientific discoveries and developments is far from spent.

      “We have a clear set of directions from research for how to harness that ambition, and we’re proud to work with organisations like the British Science Association (BSA) and the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Campaign to ensure the next generation of scientists are engaged, excited and confident about science’s input into future careers.”

      Standout findings from UK respondents were concerns regarding the weaknesses in science education and the lack of promotion around the study of STEM subjects. Aside from funding, a quarter of Brits think the biggest barriers to scientific advancement in the UK are inadequate education and training for the next generation of scientists (24 per cent), alongside the lack of students wishing to pursue careers in the space (24 per cent).

      Katherine Mathieson, chief executive of the British Science Association, said: “There are deeply engrained stereotypes about science and scientists that we must break down if we’re going to move the dial on diversifying science. If more people who would like to take science options were encouraged to do so, the skills shortage would be much less of an issue.

      “We must look beyond the lab and find ways to position science alongside other areas of human endeavour, to show that there are lots of different ways to participate in science. 3M’s support of initiatives like British Science Week and the CREST Awards means we can engage people – not just school students, but everyone - to get involved in real-world, relatable activities that bring science to life.”

      Part of the challenge that teachers and parents face is that the general image of science is damaging its appeal, both in terms of public interest in the topic and how Britons view scientists themselves. Almost half of Britons (46 per cent) believe that scientists are elitists, and 89 per cent say scientists must communicate results in simple, easier to understand language.

      “We all benefit from science, but it takes effective communication to make science more relatable,” said Dr. Jayshree Seth, PhD, corporate scientist and chief science advocate at 3M. “We know the science community does a great job at communicating with each other, but the world needs scientists to talk about their important work in ways that highlight the benefits to society.”

      To inspire scientists across the UK to talk about the topic in a way that is compelling, relatable and relevant, 3M teamed up with writer and trainer, Alan Barker, to host a webinar to help scientists communicate better through the art of great storytelling.


      WATCH THE STORYTELLING FOR SCIENTISTS MASTERCLASS

      SEE THE FULL STUDY DATA FROM THE SURVEY