Demonstrating That “We Walk Among You”: Improving Representation and Perceptions of Scientists in the Public Conscience

Author: Heidi Gardner – University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Common stereotypes of scientists are well known; a white male of a certain age spending all his time in the lab with vials of colourful bubbling liquids. In recent years significant efforts have been invested in breaking down these stereotypes, particularly with the younger generation. These efforts appear to be changing perceptions and having a positive impact on children’s perceptions. Between 1966 and 1977 a team of researchers asked 4,807 children to draw a scientist; predictably, these images regularly featured white coats, lab equipment and books (Chambers 1983). Overwhelmingly, children drew scientists as male. Just 28 of the 4,807 images (0.6%) depicted female scientists, and all of those were drawn by girls. Thankfully, recent data involving more than 20,000 children’s depictions of scientists shows that from the 1980s onwards, an average of 28% of children drew female scientists (Miller et al., 2018).

It is important to ensure that the younger generation recognise that anyone can be a scientist, but there are comparatively few initiatives to ensure that adults recognise that too. During the 2nd year of my PhD I was told that I didn’t ‘look like a scientist’. After my frustration had subsided, I set up my business, Science On A Postcard. My main aim is to increase representation of scientists within the wider community, so I have created a range of enamel pin badges to allow people to demonstrate that they are scientists in a subtle, non-verbal way. This presentation will include interviews with a variety of scientists (e.g. Biochemist, Physicist, Neuroscientist), discussing their experiences with communicating with the public before and after wearing one of these pin badges. I will demonstrate that something as simple as wearing a badge, can spark positive conversations between scientists and the public during day-to-day activities.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual presentation
Theme: Transformation