Scientists Reflect on Why They Chose to Study Science
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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’.
The final publication is available at Springer via http://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-013-9352-3
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