In an email interview with Financial Express Online, Jayshree Seth, Corporate Scientist, 3M highlights how the pandemic has changed the perception towards science. Excerpts:
In 2021, science is seen as a beacon of hope for the future. Since 2018, 3M has been tracking how the world views and values science, through the 3M State of Science Index (SOSI) – an original, global research survey to explore the image of science. In an email interview with Financial Express Online, Jayshree Seth, Corporate Scientist, 3M highlights how the pandemic has changed the perception towards science. Excerpts:
The report highlights that Indians are quite hopeful of Science solving roadblocks beyond health. What are some the factors that has influenced such thinking in a post pandemic environment?
In 2021, science is seen as a beacon of hope for the future. Since 2018, we have tracked how the world views and values science, through the 3M State of Science Index (SOSI) – an original, global research survey to explore the image of science. In 2021, the results show that the pandemic has played a crucial role in shaping the perception of people towards science. The spotlight is back on creating a thriving scientific ecosystem for dealing with the crisis. One of the most important factor that influenced the social behavior of most skeptics is how through various scientific research and study, humans are now able to understand the nature of the virus and different ways to deal with it. The best example for this will be the Covid-19 vaccine and how people are progressively adopting it. Science has been the hero, in the forefront, with preventative measures, new treatments, and effective vaccines – all developed using sound, data-driven, scientific methodology by a diverse community of dedicated professionals. This has resulted in an increased positive perception about science in India.
As per the 3M State of Science Index (SOSI) 2021, 90% of Indians have taken to a positive perception of science, a significant increase of 3 percentage points since the 2020 Pre-Pandemic Survey. The report further states that 87% of people would speak up for its true capacity to positively change the course of action. Therefore, in a post pandemic world, Indians will be placing a higher trust in Science to solve roadblocks beyond health.
With the trust in science going up among Indians, going forward what are the various scientific solutions that will have a significant impact on our daily lives?
3M SOSI results also show that future pandemics and healthcare issues are among the top priorities the global public wants science to solve for. Given the fact that the human race is facing newer kinds of disease burden, it has become even more important to further accelerate the efforts of developing and using agile digital capabilities for prevention from future health hazards. In my opinion, we need to underscore the human facet to clinical decision making. So, healthcare digitization should be aimed at adding value to clinicians’ sense of purpose and not replacing it.
There will also be a greater focus on curiosity-driven research of evolutionary methods of safeguarding humans from pandemics. This will help scientists across many other fields of investigation not only to keep clinicians and policymakers informed, but also the lessons learned from the investigation will have an impact in predicting future pandemics. The acceleration of change brought about by the pandemic will also continue to have an impact on our daily lives and spur STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) based innovation – remote learning, virtual meetings, online retail and telehealth to name a few. As per our State of Science Index, a new-found enthusiasm for science in youth suggests that the image of science may continue to improve as younger generations age. 88% Indians have recognized that scientists are being critical to our future well-being in light of the pandemic.
How can India rejuvenate its healthcare infrastructure with scientific solutions?
Many countries, including India, were relatively unprepared to deal with the pandemic in terms of the readiness, the response and the resources. It is imperative for us to now concentrate on building resilience and strength in our medical infrastructure and this cannot be achieved without the intervention of science. To rejuvenate the existing health infrastructure in the country the government can adopt various approaches like upskilling our first line of defence i.e. frontline workers, join hands with private entities to boost investment and implement technology to solve the pressing issues among others.
For instance, the 3M Healthcare Academy is an all-time accessible learning module for healthcare providers. The healthcare academy is a method to enhance patient experience by deepening the professional expertise of healthcare providers through professional training opportunities and educational resources. 3M has created modules that cover global best practices in the area of device reprocessing, wound care, operating room, oral care and food safety.
With the renewed perception about the role of science in the last one year of the pandemic, how much growth in interest for STEM education can we foresee in India?
The pandemic has renewed focus on STEM in India and has inspired more people to pursue a career in the field. As per the State of Science Index, 78% Indians believe that during the pandemic, scientists and medical professionals have inspired a new generation of young students to pursue a science-based career in the future.
Nine-in-ten Indians agreed that the world needs more people pursuing STEM related careers. Due to the pandemic, about four-in-five Indians are more inspired to pursue a STEM career. Science will matter to society because exponential population growth will bring future challenges that only science can solve.
Moreover, 7 in 10 people around the world agree there are negative consequences to society if the science community fails to attract more women and girls. The world recognizes diversity can help science achieve more, including greater global collaboration between scientists, more innovative ideas, new and improved approaches to existing research techniques and more research and innovation to help under-served populations. 3M has also produced a docuseries “Not the Science Type,” that features the stories of four female scientists with different careers as they challenge stereotypes and confront and overcome gender, racial, and age discrimination. I am honored to be one of the scientists highlighted in this docuseries that aims to spark a deeper conversation about stereotypes and their negative impact on STEM diversity, equity and inclusion.
At 3M we invested $41M in STEM support in 2019 and committed $50M to a social justice fund to benefit underrepresented and diverse populations in 2020. And in 2021, as part of our overall commitment to creating greater equity in our communities, business practices and workplaces, 3M set a new global, education-focused goal. The company will advance economic equity by creating five million unique STEM and skilled trades learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025.
The pandemic has opened our eyes to sustainability issues and made Indians more environmentally conscious than before. What is the role of science in helping countries collaborate and act together in the fight against climate change?
The pandemic has made many in India more environmentally conscious – even more than other countries surveyed. In India, people are even more likely than many other countries to feel the pandemic has made them more environmentally conscious (88% vs. 77% globally). 89% of Indians also believe that people should follow science to help make the world more sustainable. There is a sense of urgency around climate change and a strong majority of 87% Indians agreed that better solutions to mitigate climate change needs to be put in place immediately.
With the increasing awareness of the role of science, rising interest in STEM, and the sense of urgency for solving sustainability challenges I am very optimistic that countries can collaborate. It’s no surprise that another theme that emerges from 3M 2021 SOSI results is that of shared responsibility being key to a brighter future. As we continue to face unprecedented global challenges, people unanimously support collaboration between public and private sectors to advance scientific solutions. Survey respondents agree that countries should work together on pressing issues like pandemics and the environment. And most believe that the private sector has a role to play in solving challenges such as future pandemics and they say top amongst priorities for companies should be preparing for future pandemics and combating climate change.
How can we prevent further COVID related disruptions through the use of science?
I can give a very specific example – with COVID-19, spikes in the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) were 20X to 40X of normal. Even the entire global PPE industry capacity has not been enough to meet that demand. Creating the right frameworks for rapid response means that governments coordinate their response to ensure a unity of effort, work with private manufacturers to make and distribute more PPE, and partner across the supply chain to quickly deliver equipment.
One recommendation we have made is for stockpiling of PPE equipment. Governments that use stockpiles to respond to a sudden spike in demand are more resilient. When a global event causes a worldwide rush, the only viable option for meaningful immediate access is an established and well-maintained stockpile of needed supplies within a country’s borders. It’s the primary way governments can assure essential workers and especially healthcare workers are protected so they can provide patients with care in the earliest days of and throughout an emergency.
What are the critical areas where India needs to ramp up investments for fostering scientific research?
Science is viewed as essential to shaping, strengthening and improving India. 89% believe that investments in science make the country stronger. India also considers environmental issues to be top priorities for science to solve – even more pressing than the pandemic.
AND corporations are expected to help address these environmental issues such as reduction of waste and reduction in usage of plastic, water and fossil-based energy.
Conversion to renewable sources can have a major impact. To achieve less waste and reduce plastics, etc. Indian manufacturing companies can use AI/robotics and machine learning to improve their manufacturing processes and reduce their impact on the environment. Tech adoption is one of the key innovations to drive sustainable practices, whether its automation, AI enabled solutions or data analytics.
As per the report there is a sense of urgency among Indians with regards to climate change. How does 3M plan to integrate sustainable technology for mitigating climate change?
At 3M, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. A global announcement was made on Earth Day this year towards our commitment to reduce the use of new plastic made from petroleum by 125 million pounds by 2025. Our commitment to sustainability is deeply embedded in our vision of improving every life. We collaborate with all stakeholders to solve shared global, regional and local environmental issues. 3M’s sustainability goals are clubbed under 3 pillars, namely – Science for Circular (do more with less), Science for Climate (improve our environmental footprint) & Science for Community (create a more positive world through Science).
3M’s manufacturing plants adopt various improvement projects to increase yield. Projects identified through the lean and kaizen processes involve process efficiencies, machinery modifications, minimizing steps in the manufacturing process, all of which help eliminate leakages and waste. In some instances, % of yield loss was converted into products. For instance, our Ahmedabad plant has improved yield by approx. 400 kg per month by incorporating waste reduction techniques while the Ranjangaon plant has achieved 50% reduction in waste generated and converted 39% of yield loss into a good product by eliminating waste of approximately 4900 tapes per month.