When students take part in I’m a Scientist they get to vote for their favourite scientist to win £500 to spend on communicating more science. It gives them ownership of the project and they decide who gets, in effect, a small grant for public engagement. But what are students’ votes based on?
This is how 855 students (or groups of students) have ranked certain criteria from most to least important when considering how to vote for scientists, since January 2012. The results come from a Drag & Drop ranking activity in the first lesson plan “You’re the Judges” that teachers run to introduce their students to I’m a Scientist.
The top ranked criteria are all linked to health or the scientific method. This is reflected in the number of questions students ask scientists about saving lives and animal testing. Reassuringly, the more superficial criteria lurk at the bottom of the list.
Other criteria that students suggested include:
“Abides to Scientists ethics, and morals”
“A person that thinks ‘outside the box’. Confident person. Optimistic person”
“How much they believe in and care about their work”
“The speed that they answer my questions. Also if they turn up for a chat”
“How great their beards are”
“If the scientist works at weekends (as well as during the week)”
And finally, the crux of all scientific research:
“Whether their tests are fair or not”
One teacher commented that, “the class disagreed on the ‘good-looking’ criteria because some feel that people are judged by first impressions and looks are included in that”.
Teachers, how do these criteria compare to how your students judge the scientists? Did students generally agree on the rankings or did certain criteria provoke more discussions than others?