Among Russians, the interest in science is at its highest level since 2018.
As of year-end 2021, 64% of those asked across Russia said that they were interested in present-day developments in science, which was a 7% increase over the previous year. In large and medium-sized cities, this figure was higher, around 68%, and in small towns and villages it was 58%. In Moscow, the percentage of those interested in academic research was up to 82% in December of 2021, as against 61% a year earlier. These figures reflect the results of a telephone poll conducted by the Nauka (Science) television channel together with the Modern Media Research Institute, in which they interviewed 1,606 Russians over the age of 18 in the period from 10 to 20 December 2021.
Among the academic fields that people are interested in, according to the survey, medicine and biology are at the top of the list. Over the past year, interest in them has remained practically unchanged, at 38% of those surveyed.
Medicine and biology rank first among the popular sciences because the world has been in the throes of a pandemic for two years. We hear about healthcare problems all the time, we think about this all the time, and we are afraid of anything connected with medicine.
Nikolai Skvortsov, Professor in the Department of Comparative Sociology, St Petersburg University
In his opinion, if the pandemic ever does come to an end, this interest might well slacken: ‘Everything will probably go back to normal. It’s just like when [people] started going into space, and everybody got interested in space,’ said Professor Skvortsov. It is still one of the most popular academic fields among Russians. In this case, 27% of the respondents indicated that they have an interest in outer space and psychology, and over the past year the interest in nanotechnologies has risen from 16% to 26%. Russians, according to this survey, are least interested in economics (13%) and in the exact sciences, mathematics, physics and chemistry (14.5%).
There is also a gender difference among those who take even a remote interest in scientific research. The authors of this survey note that men are more often than not interested in automotive and mechanical engineering, IT and outer space, while women are keen on medicine and psychology. The number of those who would like their children to work in academia rose from 52% in 2020 to 60% in 2021.
An academic career is regarded as prestigious by 57% of women and 46% of men.
‘After a period of almost complete collapse, academia is experiencing a renaissance, and this directly affects parents’ desire to see their children as academics. It also has an impact on people’s faith in academia as a field,’ said Valeria Kasamara, Director of the Institute for Applied Political Studies at the Higher School of Economics. She also believes that the ‘frontal assault launched against the coronavirus infection put demands above all upon academia to come up with decisions and answers. This,’ she claims, ‘likewise explains the priority that medicine and biology have among the academic preferences of Russians.’