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Enterprising Science

Science Capital


The Enterprising Science project has now ended. Access copies of the Science Capital Teaching Approach or the Improving Science Participation policy recommendations here. Follow the most recent work of the Science Capital team at UCL IOE here.

What is science capital?

Science capital is a concept that can help us to
understand why some young people participate in post-
16 science and others do not. In particular, it helps shed
light on why particular social groups remain underrepresented
and why many young people do not see
science careers as being ‘for me’.


The concept of science capital can be imagined like
a ‘holdall’, or bag, containing all the science-related
knowledge, attitudes, experiences and resources that
you acquire through life. It includes what science you
know, how you think about science (your attitudes and
dispositions), who you know (e.g. if your parents are
very interested in science) and what sort of everyday
engagement you have with science.

From our research analyses, we identified eight dimensions of science capital that together comprise what you know, how you think, who you know, and what you do:

Science Capital Dimensions

1. Scientific Literacy

A young person’s knowledge and understanding about science and how science works. This also includes their confidence in feeling that they know about science.

2. Science-related attitudes, values and dispositions

This refers to the extent to which a young person sees science as relevant to everyday life (for instance, the view that science is ‘everywhere’).

3. Knowledge about the transferability of science

Understanding the utility and broad application of science qualifications, knowledge and skills used in science (e.g.that these can lead to a wide range of jobs beyond, not just in, science fields).

4. Science media consumption

The extent to which a person, for example, watches science-related television, reads science related books, magazines and engages with science-related internet content.

5. Participation in out-of-school science learning contexts

How often a young person participates in informal science learning contexts, such as science museums, science clubs, fairs, etc.

6. Family science skills, knowledgeand qualifications

The extent to which a young person’s family have science-related skills, qualifications, jobs, and interests.

7. Knowing people in science-related roles

The people a young person knows (in a meaningful way) in their family, friends, peer, and community circles who work in science-related roles.

8. Talking about science in everyday life

How often a young person talks about science out of school with key people in their lives (e.g. friends, siblings, parents, neighbours, community members) and the extent to which a young person is encouraged to continue with science by key people in their lives.


ES science capital seminar panel-discussion

The Science Capital Seminar was organised by King’s College London at the Science Museum on 10/07/2014. International academics discussed  the limits and possibilities of Pierre Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital in relation to science and science education.

Click on the title above to watch the whole seminar.

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