Research

A Background in Science:
What science means for Australian society

Kerri-Lee Harris
Funded by: Australian Council of Deans of Science (ACDS)
Date: 2012

Background in Science report

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(PDF, 4.39MB)

Prior to this research little was known about the ways in which people draw upon their science backgrounds. An earlier CSHE study for the ACDS examined employment outcomes and confirmed that many science graduates pursue careers outside scientific research. There was also widespread acceptance among science educators that the study of science developed transferable skills and attributes. There was little evidence, however, confirming the precise nature of such science attributes, and beyond individual examples and anecdotes, the range of situations in which people draw upon their science knowledge and skills was poorly understood.

A Background in Science looked beyond career pathways and sought to understand the influence of a science education and background on people’s lives more broadly. What influence does science training have upon the ways in which people think and approach problems? What aspects of science education do graduates most value?

The study – undertaken in 2011-2012 – collected input from people who identified as having a background in science, irrespective of occupation or field of study. Study participants described the various ways in which their science backgrounds influenced their lives, and offered views on the priorities for university science education.

The findings are of relevance to university staff involved in the design of curricula, and to employers looking to recruit people with particular ways of thinking, approaching problems, and making decisions. In addition, the results provide important contextual information for Australian governments when considering science education policies and priorities.