Keywords: Science; Social Representations; Expectations; Aspirations; Values; Scientific Fields; Gender.
The paper aims to investigate the view of science and scientific enterprise in young people from a social representations (SRs) perspective. The target group are students enrolled in higher education - and thus potentially interested in scientific careers - in our time and place, which is defined by financial constraints and worries. The «object» under study is «science» in its broad meaning; the «subjects» of the analysed SR are Italian university students (N = 365) from different academic courses. They answered a questionnaire including a free association task; gender as well as expectations, aspirations and values were considered. Data show a SR of science that is not very appealing and is somehow cold, with few affective and figurative features. Results are discussed in light of present day concerns in this field, which include declarations by international agencies aimed to enhance science as a countermeasure to the economic crisis. On this line, the study is proposed to serve as a baseline work for future replicates, allowing monitoring ongoing continuities and changes.