Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2020-37
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2020-37

  06 Aug 2020

06 Aug 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal GC.

School students from all backgrounds can do physics research: On the accessibility and equity of the PRiSE approach to independent research projects

Martin O. Archer Martin O. Archer
  • School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK

Abstract. Societal biases are a major issue in school students' access to and interaction with science. Schools engagement programmes in science from universities, like independent research projects, which could try and tackle these problems are, however, often inequitable. We evaluate these concerns applied to one such programme, Physics Research in School Environments (PRiSE), which features projects in space science, astronomy, and particle physics. Comparing the schools involved with PRiSE to those of other similar schemes and UK national statistics, we find that PRiSE has engaged a much more diverse set of school students and significantly more disadvantaged groups than is typical. While drop-off occurs within the protracted programme, we find no evidence of systematic biases present. The majority of schools that complete projects return for multiple years of the programme, with this repeated buy-in from schools again being unpatterned by typical societal inequalities. Therefore, school students' ability to succeed at independent research projects appears independent of background within the PRiSE framework. Qualitative feedback from teachers show that the diversity and equity of the programme, which they attribute to the level of support offered through PRiSE, is valued and they have highlighted further ways of making the projects potentially even more accessible. Researcher-involvement, uncommon in many other programmes, along with teacher engagement and communication are found to be key elements to success in independent research projects overall.

Martin O. Archer

 
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Martin O. Archer

Martin O. Archer

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Short summary
An evaluation of the accessibility and equity of a programme of independent research projects shows that, with the right support from both teachers and active researchers, school students' ability to succeed at undertaking cutting-edge research appears independent of typical societal inequalities.
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