Museums and science centres are part of a learning ecology. We already know that people engage with us in different ways – or not at all. Science capital offers us a lens for understanding what influences our visitors’ attitudes towards science, and the reasons for the differences in their engagement with science. It shows us the reasons why some people do or don’t take part in the experiences we offer.
For example, the research highlights how visitors’ cultural references and values can affect their attitudes about science. This makes them more or less likely to feel that the museum is a place for them, which influences their chance of getting something life-enhancing from their experience. We believe that we can use science capital principles to shape how we deliver our experiences throughout the museum, so that they are as equitable and accessible as possible.
If we can provide experiences that help more people make deeper connections with science by accessing the ‘capital’ they already have, we can help to change people’s attitudes towards science in the long term. This will lead them to value it and to use it to improve and enrich their lives. Most importantly, we want to develop our experiences so that they do not perpetuate inequality in society, but instead offer something valuable to everyone.
Ultimately, we want to create environments where science is inspiring, interesting, enjoyable and beneficial to all our visitors. We also want to reach out and connect with people who aren’t yet using us, in ways that value what they bring to the table.