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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 13:30 GMT
Science 'not for normal people'
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Teenagers value the role of science in society but feel scientists are "brainy people not like them", research suggests.

The Science Learning Centre in London asked 11,000 pupils for their views on science and scientists.

Around 70% of the 11-15 year olds questioned said they did not picture scientists as "normal young and attractive men and women".

The research examined why numbers of science exam entries are declining.

'Big glasses'

Researchers Roni Malek and Fani Stylianidou are completing their research in April but have analysed around half the responses so far.

They found around 80% of pupils thought scientists did "very important work" and 70% thought they worked "creatively and imaginatively". Only 40% said they agreed that scientists did "boring and repetitive work".

Over three quarters of the respondents thought scientists were "really brainy people".

The research is being undertaken as part of Einstein Year.

Among those who said they would not like to be scientists, reasons included: "Because you would constantly be depressed and tired and not have time for family", and "because they all wear big glasses and white coats and I am female".

Keep positive

Dr Stylianadou said: "These results are worrying for UK science but also hold out hope. Young people see science as important and exciting. But they don't see themselves doing it.

"If we can keep young people positive about science but help them to see the full range of scientific careers, more of them may realise that a career in science can be satisfying - and for them."

Lord May of Oxford, president of The Royal Society, which promotes science, has said "proper targets" for the numbers of pupils opting to take science at GCSE and A-level are needed.

The number taking A-level physics dropped by 34% between 1991 and 2004, with 28,698 taking the subject in that year.

The decline in numbers taking chemistry over the same period was 16%, with 44,440 students sitting the subject in 1991, and 37,254 in 2004.

The number of students taking maths also dropped by 22%.

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