What image pops into your mind when you think of scientists? Is it a positive one, a derogatory one or the stereotypical one? Does this image affect how you feel about spending your tax money on science? Does this affect the level of trust you have in research?
Christie Wilcox posts on the her blog at Scientific American,
Only 17% of Americans can name a living scientist. If you ask middle school students what a scientists looks like, they’ll tell you he’s a an old white guy with crazy hair, glasses and a lab coat. More often than not, he’s depicted inside and playing with chemicals. This stereotype is pervasive – and completely, totally wrong.
A new project encourages scientists to publicly post an image of themselves. This is what a scientist looks like encourages scientists to post a pic of themselves on tumblr. Science writer Allie Wilkinson started it to challenge the stereotypical perception of a scientist.
I love it, despite the trendy title.
Have you ever asked a seventh grader to draw a picture of a scientist? A while back Fermilab did just this, before and after a tour of the lab space. Before the students met some real life scientist they mostly drew white men in lab coats, some bald, some with Einsteinian hair.
And do you know how many American adults can count a scientist among their close friends? Less than 20 percent.
Who’s the Scientist?
Seventh graders describe scientists before and after a visit to Fermilab.
Public Attitudes and Perceptions About Health-Related Research
JAMA. 2005;294(11):1380-1384. doi: 10.1001/jama.294.11.1380