Understanding patterns in science participation.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
- Professor Louise Archer, Project Director - ASPIRES 3, Youth Equity + STEM, Making Spaces, Primary Science Capital Teaching Approach
- Dr Julie Moote - ASPIRES 3
- Emma Watson – ASPIRES 3
- Dr Jennifer DeWitt - ASPIRES 3, Making Spaces
- kat cecil – Making Spaces
- Dr Spela Godec - Youth Equity + STEM
- Dr Ada Mau - Youth Equity + STEM
- Dr Emily Dawson - Youth Equity + STEM
- Dr Uma Patel - Youth Equity + STEM
- Dr Meghna Nag Chowdhuri – Primary Science Capital Teaching Approach
Overview of projects
- ASPIRES research (ASPIRES 2 and ASPIRES 3)
- Youth Equity + STEM
- Primary Science Capital Project
- Making Spaces
Legacy project websites
If you’d like to know more about any of our projects, please send us an email at email@example.com 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:
- The Science Capital Teaching Approach - English (PDF, 1.2 MB)
- The Science Capital Teaching Approach - Welsh (PDF, 1.7 MB)