20 January 2006

Where Are the Next Generation of Scientists Coming From?

Kevin at Intelligence Testing Blog points to an important article at boingboing.net describing a London Science Learning Centre survey of 11,000 adolescents.

The results they've reported so far are a bummer. Meanwhile, the numbers of 16-18 year-olds taking physics, chemistry, and math A-level courses have dropped big time over the last 15 years. From the BBC News:

Around 70% of the 11-15 year olds questioned said they did not picture scientists as "normal young and attractive men and women"...

They found around 80% of pupils thought scientists did "very important work" and 70% thought they worked "creatively and imaginatively". Only 40% said they agreed that scientists did "boring and repetitive work".

Over three quarters of the respondents thought scientists were "really brainy people".

Among those who said they would not like to be scientists, reasons included: "Because you would constantly be depressed and tired and not have time for family", and "because they all wear big glasses and white coats and I am female".



Original BBC article.

Surveys in Canada and the US would probably be similar in results. Scientists are being portrayed in the popular media as being either sinister, or superheroes, or dull drab doormat types. Science has a public relations problem and someone needs to address it soon. The earlier that boys and girls start thinking of themselves as scientists or engineers, the earlier they can take part in activities that will build a resume' of scientific achievement.

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