My first impressions of science capital

I vividly remember my first museum experience, it was in the Natural History Museum, and I was amazed at the variety of life and the complex interrelated web of species. What I didn’t realise was that these experiences were important in developing who I am. In this blog, I am discussing my understanding of science capital, and relating it to my own personal experiences.

Preparing for my new role as a Learning Resources Developer at the Science Museum; my first experience with science capital was the animated video . The science capital ‘holdall’ seemed logical, and I saw the idea of science capital as perhaps common sense. I then read a few research papers, including the ASPIRES report, and a few Transforming Practice blog posts about science capital. For me, the most useful post concerned the science capital dimensions. I felt that this was the most accessible and relevant element, and enabled me to map my own experiences onto this framework (see below).

Annotated graphic of the science capital dimensions. My personal reflections here helped this blog post.

I also familiarised myself with the Science Museum’s auditing and reflection tool. Applying the auditing tool to my work has been incredibly useful, and has helped develop my understanding of how science capital theory relates to practice. After using the auditing tool to reflect on current Science Museum exhibitions, I gained a real appreciation of the challenge associated with embedding science capital in our practice.  The science capital dimensions ‘consumption of science-related media’, ‘knowing people in a science related job’ and ‘talking to others about science’ resonated with me the most. My Dad was a big role model for me, and seemed to know everything about electronics and mechanics. When I was around six years old there was a series called the ‘Magic School Bus’ on television (see header), but it aired whilst I was at school, and so Dad would video it for me so that I could watch it when I got home in the evenings. This facilitation of my learning and interests helped launch me into the career I have today. The Magic School Bus was a vehicle (mind the pun) for delivering science content at a level which I could understand, in an exciting way. It made me ask more questions, with the message that curiosity was everything, and that science was everywhere. It related science to everything from baking cakes to cars, and our home’s electronics.

Looking back, perhaps it was also the David Attenborough documentaries that I watched as a young adult that inspired me, as well as being part of an after school science club called ‘Siezmic’.  All of the things I’ve mentioned reflect the science capital dimensions, and show that I grew up with high science capital. However, I also realise that all of these things were due to my parents who wanted me to succeed. My parents introduced me to science media, encouraged me to join science clubs and complete extra-curricular activities, and talked to me about careers (still to this day in fact). This experience is not uncommon, and is reflected in the literature (below).


Given the importance of parents and family in determining science capital, the new suite of resources for Wonderlab: the Statoil gallery have been specifically tailored for the dual audience of both teachers and families. This is one tool which may help parents nurture their children’s native interest in science. By facilitating discussion and incorporating a ‘science in your world’ section, these resources help make science more accessible and relevant to the next generation of STEM professionals.

To me, science capital is best practice. It is making science relevant, accessible, and fun. It’s about increasing engagement with content and promoting scientific literacy as a consequence. Due to my academic background in science, promoting scientific literacy is something that I place real value on, and is something that I am passionate about.

Where does most of your science capital come from?

Jonathan Harvey, Learning Resources Developer

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