London, 27 September 2023 – Today, the global materials science solutions provider 3M announced the findings of its new research into consumer attitudes to science and sustainability, revealing that an overwhelming majority of British people (92%) are concerned about the consequences of climate change.
The importance of sustainability for the future of Britain is reflected in the 3M data with 89% of the 1,000 British adults surveyed in the 3M State of Science Index believing that schools should provide education around climate change for students as a core part of their curriculum. 90% believe companies should do more to make it easier for consumers to be more sustainable.
BSA data identifies climate change as the number one concern for young people
The 3M study coincides with the launch of the British Science Association’s (BSA) Youth Insights Data platform, which presents statistical information gathered from historical research with young people (14 – 18 year-olds) in relation to science and technology topics that will affect their futures. According to the BSA data, climate change is the number one concern for the younger generation, with 71% of respondents believing that climate change is likely to affect them in the future.
Both the 3M data and the BSA data investigated attitudes around modern technologies. The 3M State of Science Index reflected that most respondents (88%) agreed that companies need to accelerate the development and adoption of technologies and innovations that address climate change. Furthermore, 71% of the 3M survey respondents believe artificial intelligence (AI) can help build a more sustainable future, and 63% say AI is an exciting technology that impacts their everyday life. This is in contrast with the findings of the BSA data, which indicates that many young people (56%) are concerned about the impact of AI on future job security.
Science is seen as a solution, but lack of diversity is holding the industry back
According to the 3M State of Science Index 2023, most UK consumers (92%) agree that STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) professionals can help us solve the problems of tomorrow. Yet, 80% agree that underrepresented groups are a source of untapped potential in the STEM workforce.
This is also reflected in the BSA Youth Insights data, which indicates that Asian and Black young people in the UK are most likely to feel connected with science, with 49% and 44% respectively expressing this sentiment compared to 31% of those who identified as white and 20% of other ethnicities. However, only 8% of the young people surveyed in the research feel represented in STEM, which poses barriers to inclusion.
According to Sarah Chapman, Technical Manager and North Europe STEM Champion at 3M: “Both the 3M and BSA data reflect widespread concern about climate change across generations. This is not surprising, given the critical importance of this issue for the future of humanity. Yet, while science and technology are seen as a solution to the problem, a lack of diversity in STEM is holding the industry back. We need to do more to ensure the industry is inclusive and doesn’t miss out on the huge potential that underrepresented groups offer for closing the STEM skills gap and helping us all build a more sustainable future.”
Gender disparity continues to be a barrier for girls, but the gap is closing
Another key issue identified in both studies is gender disparity in STEM. 88% of the Brits in the 3M research agree that women are a source of unused potential in the STEM workforce. According to the BSA data, gender disparities occur at a young age. The findings reveal that teenage boys are more likely to feel connected to science, compared to teenage girls (37% vs 29% respectively) and girls are slightly more likely to feel that ‘science is not for me’ compared to boys (19% vs 12%). However, the differences in the data when it comes to having an interest in a career in STEM and appreciating science are minimal, suggesting that the gender gap might be diminishing.
The findings also show that there is a decline in interest in science with age. A significantly lower proportion of 18-year-olds consider science as important and express interest in a career in STEM compared to their younger counterparts. Only half (50%) of the 18-year-old BSA research respondents agreed that science is important compared to 64% of the 14-year-old respondents. Similarly, only 19% of the older respondents showed interest in a career in science compared to 39% of the 14-year-olds.
Hannah Russell, the Chief Executive of the BSA, said:
“The British Science Association is grateful to our Strategic Partner 3M for their support in developing our Youth Insights Data webpage. Our partnership has allowed us to shed light on the thoughts and concerns of young people when it comes to science and technology. The findings of the project are clear: more needs to be done to ensure that science benefits, represents and empowers young people.
At the BSA, we are committed to working with partners like 3M to create a more inclusive STEM sector, where young people have opportunities to voice their opinions on the things that matter to them. We believe that by listening to the voices of young people, we can build a better future for everyone.”
3M believes science helps create a brighter world for everyone. By unlocking the power of people, ideas and science to reimagine what's possible, our global team uniquely addresses the opportunities and challenges of our customers, communities, and planet. Learn how we're working to improve lives and make what's next at 3M.com/news.
3M is a strategic partner of the British Science Association and a sponsor of its Youth Insights webpage, which offers a unique glimpse into the views of the younger generation on science and sustainability and an opportunity to draw comparisons with the attitudes of British adults explored in the 3M research. Now in its sixth year, the 3M State of Science Index (SOSI) is an annual 17-country survey among 1,000 general population consumers in each country.
About the British Science Association (BSA)
The British Science Association (BSA) wants to see a future where science is more relevant, representative, and connected to society. The BSA develops science engagement programmes for audiences underrepresented in, and underserved by, science.
The BSA’s mission is to address and remove structural and system-wide barriers, bringing more voices into the conversation and enabling more people to see science as a relevant part of their lives. The BSA are striving for a future where everyone is represented and has their voice heard on the issues that matter to them.
The BSA was established in 1831 and is a registered charity organising major initiatives across the UK, including British Science Week; the British Science Festival; For Thought; the CREST Awards, and community engagement programmes. The BSA work with, convene, and seek to influence business leaders, policy makers, scientists, community leaders, teachers, and other public groups.
The BSA Insights data has been collected through several series of polls, surveys, workshops and reports designed to share the views of young people with relevant policy makers, funders and stakeholders.
3M is a trademark of the 3M Company.