Asking scientists: A decade of questions analyzed by age, gender, and country

January 1st, 2009 | RESEARCH

Nearly 79,000 questions sent to an Internet-based Ask-A-Scientist site during the last decade were analyzed according to the surfer's age, gender, country of origin, and the year the question was sent. The sample demonstrated a surprising dominance of female contributions among K-12 students (although this dominance did not carry over to the full sample), where offline situations are commonly characterized by males' greater interest in science. This female enthusiasm was observed in different countries, and had no correlation to the level of gender equity in those countries. This suggests that the Internet as a free-choice science-learning environment plays a potentially empowering and democratic role that is especially relevant to populations that are traditionally deprived of equal opportunities in learning formal science. However, worldwide, girls' interest in submitting questions to scientists dropped as they grew older relative to the boys' interest, and the stereotypically gendered science interests persisted in this environment as well. The strengths and limitations of using free-choice Web-based data sources for studying youth interest in science are discussed.


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Team Members

Ayelet Baram-Tsabari, Author, Weizmann Institute of Science
Ricky Sethy, Author, University of California
Lynn Bry, Author, Harvard Medical School
Anat Yarden, Author, Weizmann Institute of Science


Publication: Science Education
Volume: 93
Number: 1
Page(s): 131

Related URLs

EBSCO Full Text


Access and Inclusion: Women and Girls
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM | Nature of science
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media