On January 29th, Universe Awareness joined the PLACES Thematic Work Group workshop: Young People and Scientific Careers, hosted by PLACES in Nottingham, UK. The aim of the workshop was to generate a list of recommendations for several stakeholders to pave the way for young people towards a career in science. is a European project that promotes collaboration between science communicators and local governments. A series of workshops lead up to the final PLACES Conference in Bremen, Germany, on 10-12 March 2014.
Speakers during this workshop included Rick Hall from , Phil Hughes from and Louise Archer from King’s College London. Hall introduced ; a separate classroom where 10-year old students pose their own scientific questions and set up experiments to find the answers, under guidance of a scientist. Hughes elaborated on the ambassador programme of STEMNET. During a speed dating session, science students and scientists talk to children about the steps they took to get to their current career status. Finally, Prof. Archer showed the results of her research on the correlation between a child’s situation and their ambition towards a certain profession. The main conclusion: the family’s science capital plays a major role in the career goals of a child. If parents are interested and knowledgeable about science and provide educational resources, the child has a positive image about science subjects and a science career.
After a morning of talks, a lively discussion erupted in the afternoon about the best ways to engage children and young people in science and encourage them to choose a career in science. This resulted in a list of recommendations for the stakeholders, policy-makers, scientists, industry and science communicators. A full report, including the rationale behind each recommendation, will be available here soon. These are the main ones:
- For scientists: Citizen science projects need to follow up with the public afterwards. They should give feedback, recognition and acknowledgement of the impact.
- For science communicators: Focus on motivation and inspiration during science communication projects for young people. Most scientists can identify one specific aha! moment when they realised they wanted a career in science.
- For science communicators: Don’t forget to target parents in projects for young children. They play a major role in a child’s perception and knowledge of science.
- For Policy-makers: Make sure schools emphasise that a career in science not necessarily means being a scientist; there are many other professions involving science. School should give students an update on the broad variety of professions on the job market that are in store for science students.