Scientists reflect on why they chose to study science

Type Journal Article - Research in Science Education
Title Scientists reflect on why they chose to study science
Volume 43
Issue 6
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Page numbers 2207-2233
Abstract A concern commonly raised in literature and in media relates to the declining
proportions of students who enter and remain in the ‘science pipeline’, and whether many
countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have enough budding scientists to fill
research and industry positions in the coming years. In addition, there is concern that
insufficient numbers of students continue in science to ensure an informed, scientifically
literate citizenry. The aim of the research presented in this paper was to survey current
Australian and New Zealand scientists to explore their reasons for choosing to study science.
An online survey was conducted via a link to SurveyGizmo. The data presented are from
726 respondents who answered 22 forced-choice items and an open-ended question about
the reasons they chose to study science. The quantitative data were analysed using t tests and
analyses of variance followed by Duncan’s multiple range tests, and the qualitative data were
analysed thematically. The quantitative data showed that the main reasons scientists reported
choosing to study science were because they were interested in science and because they
were good at science. Secondary school science classes and one particular science teacher
also were found to be important factors. Of much less importance were the prestige of
science and financial considerations. The qualitative data expanded on these findings and
showed that passion for science and/or curiosity about the world were important factors and
also highlighted the importance of recreational pursuits, such as camping when a child. In
the words of one respondent, ‘People don’t go into science for the money and glory. It’s
passion for knowledge and science that always attracted me to the field’.

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