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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Scientists 'too busy' for pupils
science lesson
Scientists can help bring the subject alive for pupils
The pressure to publish research means many scientists do not have time to go into schools to encourage pupils to take up sciences, a study suggests.

A survey of 1,485 scientists found 64% said they needed to spend their time generating funds for their departments.

The Royal Society survey also found 52% of respondents did not regard outreach work in schools, public debates or media interviews as important.

The society said scientists needed more encouragement to share their knowledge.

The survey of research scientists highlighted that taking part in public engagements was sometimes regarded as "fluffy" and "not good for their careers".

Contact with practicing scientists is one way we can help inspire young people
The Royal Society

And 73% had received no training in talking about science to a non-specialist audience.

However, the study also found that 45% would like to spend more time engaging with the "non-specialist audience" about science and 74% of those surveyed had taken part in at least one public science event in the past 12 months.

Respondents said they would be motivated to undertake more public commitments if, by doing so, they generated rewards for their departments - 81% said this would be a key incentive.

Inspiring the young

A spokesperson for the Royal Society said contact with practising scientists was one way to encourage young people to consider further study and careers in science.

"Teachers can also gain a huge amount from meeting and talking to practising scientists as a way of updating their knowledge and refreshing their passion for modern science.

"It is heartening that 50% of scientists surveyed identified schools and school teachers as being among the most important audiences to engage with."

Sir David Wallace, vice president of the Royal Society, said: "While the report identified that research pressures are a factor in discouraging involvement with science communication activities we should be careful not to paint an overly simplistic picture of 'cause and effect'.

"We need to see the profile of this kind of work being raised within departments so that it is seen as a more integral part of a well rounded career."

Rewarding scientists

The aim of the study is to help funding organisations, universities and other research institutions devise a reward system for those scientists who get involved with public engagement activities.

The survey was conducted with the support of Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust.

The findings come as the number of students in Scotland taking most science subjects has fallen markedly.

Statistics from the Scottish Executive have shown a fall of about 20% in students of physics and electronic engineering at Scottish universities in a decade.

In England, though, the number of candidates taking sciences at A-level has risen slightly in the past two years.

In 2005, 33,164 students sat A-level chemistry, compared with 32,130 in 2004 and entries for biological sciences rose from 44,235 to 45,664.

But entries for A-level physics fell from 24,606 in 2004 to 24,094 in 2005.

Decline in student science uptake
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16 Aug 05 |  Education

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