Master Science Hobbyists: Characteristics, Motivations, Experiences and Career Trajectories
This National Science Foundation supported research is examining the characteristics, motivations, in- and out-of-school experiences, informal science activities and career trajectories of citizen scientists and “master hobbyists.” The project is documenting who these individuals are; their career pathways; how they engage in their hobbies; and what motivates, sustains and defines their scientific interests.
In the first year, the project interviewed more than 100 master science hobbyists and citizen scientists, and in the second year we have surveyed over 2,000 science hobbyists with a range of scientific hobbies. The results will provide insight as to why hobbies are attractive to one group or another and can inform educators about new ways to design science programs for individuals with different levels of interest and expertise.
Despite policy changes and targeted outreach, issues of underrepresentation persist for women and minorities in science fields. Previous research has explored extrinsic motivational factors for underrepresented groups in both formal educational settings. However, little research has investigated intrinsic motivation within informal educational experiences like active participation in free choice learning activities like a science-based hobby. Interviews were conducted with 17 astronomy hobbyists who self-identified as under-represented individuals (race, ethnicity and gender). Respondents’ hobby experiences and motivational aspects emerged from analysis of the descriptive accounts provided by the interviews. Findings suggested there was a positive relationship between the degree of hobby participation and number of challenges presented in various phases of hobby growth. Additionally, disparities in sampled minorities’ access to authentic Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) experiences served as a factor influencing their hobby motivation and subsequent development. Other factors that influenced minority engagement included differential participation in hobby clubs, lack of access to mentors, and the delay of active hobby participation until adulthood. Findings suggest science hobbies as an avenue to motivate underrepresented groups in science interests. This information may prove useful in guiding next steps regarding policy and research in the under-representation of women and minorities in STEM hobbies and STEM careers alike.
Dr Megan Elizabeth Ennes