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Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 16:57 GMT
Scientists stuck with geek image
Scientists are seen as "not having fun"
School children see scientists as unfashionable geeks who spend too much time in the laboratory, claim researchers.

And the researchers from Leicester University and Curtin University in Australia say that this negative stereotype is already established by the time children leave primary school.

Capturing the imagination of a child before the age of 11 is crucial for the child to develop a lasting interest in the subject

Dr Tina Jarvis
A study published last year showed that many secondary school pupils are put off a career in science by the image of scientists as "cranks" and "geeks" - and this latest survey shows how early such impressions are established.

Researchers asked children aged six to eight to depict their image of a scientist, with the pupils drawing pictures which showed males wearing white coats and with "eccentric" hair.

And regardless of the ethnic background of the pupils, scientists were seen as white characters.

Negative impressions

These negative impressions were reinforced as children grew older, with researchers recording that nine year olds believed that scientists "never have fun".

The pupils were also found to have a strong identification with science as a laboratory-based activity, with children not recognising images of scientists in outdoor settings.

Researchers found that pupils did not expect any kind of diversity in what scientists looked like or how they worked.

In response to the findings, the director of the National Centre for Initial Teacher Training in Primary School Science (SCIcentre), Dr Tina Jarvis, said that this showed the need for providing positive images of science at an early age.

'Year of Science'

"Capturing the imagination of a child before the age of 11 is crucial for the child to develop a lasting interest in the subject," she said.

"If the child hasn't enjoyed science prior to this age then the child may never enjoy science, the subject is lost to them and makes little sense in secondary school."

The centre is producing resources designed to help primary schools to foster a greater interest in science.

The UK Government has also designated a "Year of Science", beginning in September.

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See also:

28 Jun 00 | Education
2001 'year of science'
21 Dec 99 | Education
Scientists seen as 'geeks' by pupils
19 Apr 00 | Education
Cash boost for school science labs
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