Role of chemistry ‘undervalued’ in sustainability drive

The UK public has “no understanding” of the role chemistry plays in tackling sustainability challenges and the fight against climate change. More than half of the 186 chemistry professionals questioned […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The UK public has “no understanding” of the role chemistry plays in tackling sustainability challenges and the fight against climate change.

More than half of the 186 chemistry professionals questioned believe when it comes to the challenges of the 21st century, such as providing clean water, food security and renewable energy, society don’t understand chemists’ role in finding the solutions.

A majority (83%) said the role of chemistry is “undervalued” to some degree in comparison to biology and physics.

A quarter of them believe chemistry’s reputation for not being innovative or “green” is the main cause of the growing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) student recruitment crisis.

More than half (51%) added if the situation continues, there would be a crisis due to the lack of new chemistry students.

While breakthroughs in sustainability will increasingly require collaboration between different disciplines, only 30% of chemists believe there are enough opportunities to collaborate with researchers in other fields to work on solutions.

Tim Hoctor, Vice President of Professional Services at Elsevier said: “When people think of chemistry or chemicals, too often they think of toxic spills or manufacturing disasters.

“By publicising the work being done in areas such as biodegradable packaging or water purification, institutions and businesses can change the narrative in people’s minds and engage young potential chemists. The 21st century is presenting us with some of the biggest sustainability problems we’ve ever faced – the more brilliant minds we have working on solutions, the better.”