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Science Capital Research

Understanding patterns in science participation.

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What is Science Capital?

Science capital is a concept that can help us understand patterns in science participation - why some people engage with science and others do not.

In particular, it helps shed light on why particular social groups remain underrepresented in post-16 science, and why many young people do not see science careers as being 'for me', nor see themselves as a 'science person'.

The concept of science capital can be imagined like a bag, containing all the science-related knowledge, attitudes, experiences and resources that you acquire through life. It includes what science you know, how you think about science (your attitudes and dispositions), who you know (for example, if your parents are very interested in science) and what sort of everyday engagement you have with science.

Connections

Deriving from the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, the idea of science capital was developed by Professor Louise Archer and colleagues as a conceptual device to capture an individual's science-related resources and dispositions.

Today it is widely used in science education research, policy, and practice. We have recently investigated how science capital can be connected to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) capital.

Background

Science capital was first developed by Louise Archer and colleagues in the ASPIRES project at King's College London.

Building on 5 years of research with young people aged 10-14 and their families, ASPIRES found that children from families with more science related-resources (such as parents with scientific hobbies or careers) were more likely to want to pursue science at school and as a career.

Rationale

The concept of science capital was developed as a way to understand why these science-related resources, attitudes and aspirations led some children to pursue science, while others did not.

Development

Science capital has since developed conceptually and empirically through the ASPIRES projects, Enterprising Science and the Primary Science Capital Project.  

The Enterprising Science project developed a survey to measure student science capital and extended the concept of science capital beyond homes and into schools and museums. If you would like to use the survey, please email ioe.sciencecapital@ucl.ac.uk to request a copy.

The development of these ideas have led the Science Capital research team to new projects. These include using the concept to create strategies for teaching in primary and secondary schools and to develop measures of science capital index for adults.

Team and projects

Our team are members of the Centre for Sociology of Education and Equity (CSEE).

UCL team members

Overview of projects

Science Capital Research project overview

Read a text-only version of the infographic.

Project websites 

Legacy project websites

If you’d like to know more about any of our projects, please send us an email at ioe.sciencecapital@ucl.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter @_ScienceCapital

Resources and outputs

For full lists of publications and reports, please visit each of our project pages listed above. 

We recently created The Science Capital Teaching Approach, a practical guide to building students’ Science Capital in your classroom. You can download the resource in English or Welsh:

Useful resources:

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