, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 251-256
Date: 23 May 2008

Does Doing Scientific Research in High School Correlate with Students Staying in Science? A Half-Century Retrospective Study

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has declared in an advertising campaign that “you can’t start young enough” in science. However, there is no long-term data evaluating the effect of early exposure to original scientific research on producing career scientists. To address this issue, we examined a hands-on summer science research program for high school students that ran from 1958 to 1972. We compared participants in that program with science students that only began their hands-on research experience once in university. Our data indicate that students who are interested in science and have an opportunity to participate in original scientific research while in high school are significantly more likely (p < .005) to both enter and maintain a career in science compared to students whose first research experience didn’t occur until university. Our data suggest that more hands-on high school science research programs could help increase the number of students entering and maintaining scientific careers, relieving the growing concern that North America is losing its leadership status in the international scientific community.