Published by the Institute of Physics in association with the Science Museum
Public Understanding of Science issue:Epub ahead of print
The aim of this paper is to gain insight into the prototypical scientists as they appear in fiction and non-fiction media consumed by children and teenagers in the Netherlands. A qualitative-interpretive content analysis is used to identify seven prototypes and the associated characteristics in a systematic way. The results show that the element of risk is given more attention in fiction than in non-fiction. Also, eccentric scientists appear more often in fiction. In non-fiction, the dimension useful – useless is more important. Further, fictional scientists are loners, although in reality scientists more often work in a team. In both fiction and non-fiction the final product of the scientific process gets more attention than the process itself. The prototype of the doubter is introduced as an alternative to the dominant representations, because it represents scientists and engineers in a more realistic and nuanced way.