Institute of Education


Science Capital Research

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 'holdall', or 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 (e.g. 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.


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 youths 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 Enterprising Science project and the ASPIRES 2 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.

The Science Capital research team are using the concept to create strategies for teaching in primary and secondary schools and to develop measures of science capital index for adults.

Related links

Team and projects

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

 IOE team members

King's College London partner

Overview of projects

Infographic showing Science Capital project overview

Read a text-only version of the infographic.

Related links 

Resources and outputs
Enterprising Science

Enterprising Science was a science education research and development project partnership between University College London (UCL), King's College London (KCL) and the Science Museum, funded by BP (2013-2018). It used the concept of 'science capital' (science-related qualifications, interest, literacy and social contacts) to understand how young people from all backgrounds engage with science and how their engagement might be supported.

The project started at KCL and moved to UCL Institute of Education in March 2017, concluding in May 2018.

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