A New Paper about When Scientists First Got Interested in Science

Lately I’ve been too busy with the kinds of work that earn money to post on this blog. However, here’s one piece of news I couldn’t resist posting.

It’s a new paper by Adam V. Maltese and Robert H. Tai about how scientists got started on what would eventually become their career paths. The paper has a great title: “Eyeballs in the Fridge: Sources of early interest in science.” You can read an Education Week blog post about the research by clicking here. The abstract is available online by clicking here. (Unfortunately, most people can’t read the whole article unless they gain access through a research library system.)

Here are some key points from the paper:

  • It was an interview study with 116 scientists and graduate students about what got them started with their interests in science.
  • The study focused on “the timing, source, and nature of their earliest interest in science.”
  • Most of the respondents (65%) said their interest in science began before middle school.
  • Females were more likely to say their interest was sparked by school-related activities.
  • Males were more likely to say they got interested because of something that happened before or after school.
  • The authors point out that these findings have policy implications, since many efforts aimed at encouraging new scientists begin in high school and above.

Now, some points from me:

  • None of this surprises me, because I’ve been following the research on children’s interests for many years.
  • There has been quite a bit of research on children’s interests of late, starting with kids as young as preschool.
  • The gender-related findings are not surprising because research on younger children shows that boys, for whatever reason, have been much more likely to develop strong science-related interests early in life.
  • The efforts aimed at high school and above are still important, because so many kids who develop early science-related interests move on to other interests as they grow.

There’s so much more I could say that I could write a book about it — perhaps eventually I will.

By the way, thanks to @sciencegoddess for posting about this paper on Twitter. Her post started an interesting Twitter stream about this research, which you can access by clicking here.

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