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Dr Emily Dawson

Dr Emily Dawson

Associate Professor

Dept of Science & Technology Studies

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
5th Sep 2014

Research summary

My work focuses on how people encounter and engage with science, with an emphasis on equity and social justice. My research and teaching explore how some science engagement practices, from school classrooms, to museums, to watching TV at home, set certain kinds of people up to be successful when they encounter science, while other people are set up to fail. In 2020 I won one of the Philip Leverhulme Awards for my work in Sociology and Social Policy.

My book "Equity, Exclusion & Everyday Science Learning" was published by Routledge in their Education Series in February 2019! You can find it here: https://www.routledge.com/Equity-Exclusion-and-Everyday-Science-Learning-The-Experiences-of-Minoritised/Dawson/p/book/9781138289949 

Theoretical work

I have developed a theoretical approach to how science communication and informal science learning practices and publics might be understood by drawing on science and technology studies, cultural sociology, political philosophy (particularly theories of social justice, democracy and participation) and education. I focus on how we can understand & transform patterns of advantage & disadvantage caused by structural inequalities, such as racism, sexism, class discrimination, homophobia, ablism and their intersections. I have written widely on these topics and they are the focus of my book "Equity, Exclusion & Everyday Science Learning". 

I believe that learning more about what happens when science becomes 'public' through the lens of social justice can help us to find ways to reimagine who and what counts in science. To address the substantial challenges of social justice in science communication and engagement, I draw across my practical & research background, as well as across theories from pedagogy, to sociology of education, to science and technology studies. 

Practice & Research Collaborations

My research has focused on collaborations between audiences/users, practitioners and researchers involved in the many different fields of informal science learning and science communication. For instance, across the five years of the “Enterprising Science” we worked with students, families and teachers at school across the UK, exploring how support students’ performance and enjoyment in science classes, museum visits and at home. 

At present,  I am a co-investigator on an international UK-US collaborative project funded through the Science Learning + awards that have allowed me to combine theoretically-driven and practice-based research. The four-year grants builds on our earlier development grant and is an attempt to take challenge seriously the challenge of exploring, understanding and challenging structural inequalities in science. Through collaborations with youth from minoritised backgrounds and practitioners in four cities (Bristol, London, Lansing and Portland) we co-developed participatory research exploring how informal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning could become more equitable. This project will run until December 2021. 

Here is my Orcid ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7152-6032

Teaching summary

2020-2021

  • Term 1: Science and Popular Culture (HPSC0013, 2nd Year UG, STS)
  • Term 2: Social Research Methods and Data Analysis in Science and Technology Studies  (HPSC0126 MSc, STS)

In previous years in the Department of Science & Technology Studies I have also taught:

  • Science, Technology, Identity & Social Justice (STS MSc) 
  • Investigating Science & Society (1st Year UG, STS)
  • Science Communication & Computing (2nd Year UG, Natural Sciences)
  • Science & the Mass Media (2nd Year UG, STS)

At present I supervise 5 amazing PhD students and note with regret that I will be unable to undertake any additional PhD supervision until one of them finishes (no pressure!).

Completed PhDs:

  • Edward Bankes, UCL (2020), "A scientist walks into a bar: Exploring science communication through science comedy. 
  • Spela Godec, KCL (2016), "Urban girls' engagement with science within school, science museum and family contexts: Interactions of gender, social class & ethnicity". 
  • Agnes Ryder, KCL (2015), "An exploration of student's perceptions of Second Life for learning purposes".

At King's College London I taught on the following courses Science PGCE, Science Education MSc, Advanced Qualitative Research Skills for the MPhil, Education in Cultural Settings MA and the Education Studies BA. 

I have also taught Science Communication and Social Studies of Science at MA and MSc level at the Royal College of Art and the University of the West of England.

Biography

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at University College London. My research explores how people learn about and engage with science, with an emphasis on inclusion and social justice. In other words, why do some people do well in school science, watch science on TV and visit science museums while others do not? I focus on how we can understand & transform patterns of advantage & disadvantage caused by structural inequalities, such as racism, sexism, class discrimination, homophobia, ablism and their intersections. In particular, I am interested in how to disrupt rather than reproduce science related injustices. 

I began working in research after a career in science museums,  community support & science communication practices. Over the last 12 years I’ve explored the full breadth of science education and communication, through the lens of social justice. For instance I spent 5 years working directly with schools, particular science teachers and their students (2012-2017,Enterprising Science), researching how Science Capital might best be supported for youth from under-privileged backgrounds. My post-doctoral work on the Wellcome Trust’s Review of Informal Learning in the UK spanned science education providers across the whole country, from science teachers, to educators in botanic gardens, to after-school science club organisers, examining which communities they served and why. While my PhD research focused on people who felt excluded from almost all forms of science education and communication, and asked why and how that could happen.   

My current project (on which I am a Co-Investigator, alongside Professor Louise Archer, PI, Professor Angela Calabrese Barton, PI and Professor Lynn Dierking, Co-I), is called Youth Equity and STEM, or YESTEM (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/departments/education-practice-and-society/youth-equity-stem). This four & a half year long project (awarded in 2017) is a collaboration between youth from minoritised backgrounds, informal science education practitioners and researchers across the UK and the US. Working in partnership we have developed evidence-based approaches to building informal science learning practices that support minoritised youth to enjoy, engage with and learn about science. 


Publications