Science capital is a recently established term developed to apply the concepts of social capital and cultural capital within a scientific context. The foundation work builds on that of Pierre Bourdieu.
Social capital is the idea that our social networks – the people we know and interact with and our status in social groups – have value. Being part of a social group is valuable to us as it allows us to achieve things that we couldn’t on our own. A good example of social capital in action is a neighbourhood watch scheme. However if you are not connected to a social group then you cannot gain the value that comes from being part of that group, and so Bourdieu argues that social capital can produce or reproduce inequalities in society.
Cultural capital is the idea that the forms of knowledge and skills that people acquire by being part of a particular social class (skills, tastes, mannerisms, clothing etc) have value. Cultural capital is valuable to us when we interact with people with similar cultural capital as ourselves – someone with the same taste in music or who went to the same school, say – as it creates a sense of collective identity and group position, of “people like us”. However because certain forms of cultural capital are valued above others in society, if you do not have these forms of cultural capital it can work to reduce your social mobility by reproducing existing inequalities in society.
As with social and cultural capital, ASPIRES found that science capital can also reproduce inequalities in society. They found that pupils with higher levels of science capital in their family were more likely to aspire towards a science-related career, and that pupils with lower levels of science capital were less likely to aspire to a science-related career.
You can read more about the ASPIRES project here.