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Title: Meeting scientists : impacts on visitors to the Natural History Museum, London
Author: Seakins, Amy Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 4442
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis focuses on how face-to-face interactions with scientists, during a visit to a natural history museum, can have an impact on how visitors conceptualise and identify with researchers. The study draws together the literature on attitudes to science and perceptions of scientists, whilst also focusing on identity development in individuals, using the concept of interest to study impacts on engagement. The study adopted a qualitative approach primarily involving interviews with 81 adult visitors and 38 A-level students (aged 16-18) meeting scientists in museum-based discussion events. Participants were interviewed before, immediately after, and two months after meeting scientists to explore longer-term impacts. Meeting scientists had an impact on visitors’ and students’ identification of and with scientists. Visitors and students held conceptual ecologies around perceptions of scientists, drawing on multiple ideas about scientists concurrently. Visitors and students identified more closely with scientists following their interaction, recognising common experiences, and visitors also developed a lasting interest in scientists and their career histories. I propose the notion of scientists as ‘everyday experts’: knowledgeable individuals with clear areas of expertise who are also approachable and accessible. A ‘midway’ approach to public engagement is recommended to facilitate the presentation of scientists as ‘everyday experts’; an intermediate approach between a deficit, one-way communication and a two-way dialogue between scientists and the public. Meeting scientists is shown to bring ‘added value’ in terms of increasing scientific literacy: perceptions of scientists became more positive and less stereotypical and participants learned about particular areas of science as a result of the session. Meeting scientists was also shown to provide ‘added value’ in promoting science engagement: visitors reported continued engagement with science in the delayed post-session interviews two months after the visit. I discuss the implications of my findings for research and practice, with the aim of further understanding how to develop scientific literacy and engagement.
Supervisor: Dillon, Justin ; King, Heather Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available