Top US Science Priorities for 2021

General Overview
Study Date:
Geographic Coverage:
United States
71% Biology18% Civil and Environmental Engineering11% Geography
Response Overview
Sample Size:
Valid Responses:
Response rate:
Date initial findings posted:
Most recent update:
Days survey in field:
Average response time:
7.5 mins
Survey Demographics
Respondent Demographics:
36% Female64% Male100% Academic0% Industry

The survey sample was weighted by gender and academic field to represent the population as closely as possible. The measure of sampling error for questions answered by the full sample is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

We asked scientists to prioritize 22 science and technology topics for attention by the U.S. over the next 12 months.

The following graphs show the top 10 topics overall, followed by the top-ranked issues grouped into three topic areas: science practice, science communication, and science policy.

Top 10 science priorities for the US in 2021. (Exact question wording: “How much of a priority should each of the following science and technology topics be for the U.S. over the next 12 months?”)
graph showing top 10 priorities for US science in 2021

According to scientists, nine of the 10 top priorities are related to communication with the public and public policy areas.

Among the top 10 issues identified as critical priorities for US-based science and technology, “Enhancing public trust in science” (64%) and “Advancing climate change policy” (61%) are believed as the top priorities for 2021.

Top priorities for the practice of science for the US in 2021.
graph showing top science practice priorities for 2021

A majority of scientists (70%) responded that advancing racial diversity in the scientific workforce should be one of the top science practice priorities for 2021.

Top science communication priorities for the US in 2021.
graph showing science communication priorities for 2021

When thinking about ways to communicate science to the public, the majority of scientists responded that “Enhancing public trust in science” (64%), “Confronting science denialism” (53%), and “Improving the use of science to inform public policy” (53%) should be top priorities in 2021

Top science policy priorities for the US in 2021.
graph showing top science policy priorities for 2021

With regard to public policy, scientists responded that “Advancing climate change policy” (61%), “Expediting COVID-19 research” (43%),  and “Enhancing global competitiveness of US science” (32%), are top priorities for 2021.

Survey Description

This national survey on science, technology and society 2020 events and priorities was conducted by the Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Studies at Arizona State University. The population for the survey represents a random sample of academic scientists (tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure-track) who work in three departments three subfields (biology, civil and environmental engineering, and geography) at 60 randomly selected universities classified as Carnegie designated research extensive (R1) universities in the United States. The online survey was administered in English using Sawtooth Software®. A total of 2,436 individuals were invited to participate in the survey via email invitations with a series of personalized email follow-up reminders.  Survey invitations were sent on October 21, 22 and 23. The survey was closed on November 23rd.

A total of 451 usable responses were obtained, representing an AAPOR response rate (RR4) of 18.8%. A total of 44 questions were included in the final survey questionnaire. The questionnaire included sections asking about (1) progress that has been made within the U.S. in addressing 22 science and technology topics over the past 12 months; and (2) science and technology topics which should be a priority for the U.S. in 2021. The survey was approved by Institutional Review Boards at Arizona State University and at the University of Illinois at Chicago.