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Genomics Forum · News

Could reading Harry Potter help scientists cure the common cold?



New research to examine the influence of literature upon scientists.


Could reading Harry Potter help science find a cure for the common cold, or studying Jane Austen make someone a contender for a Nobel Prize for physics? New research examining the influence literature has upon the work of scientists may soon help provide answers to such questions.

What Scientists Read is an innovative project – funded by the Scottish Crucible - that sets out to discover if reading certain literature might influence a scientist’s career path, or even impact the research scientists undertake. As part of the project, researchers - from The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, and the Universities of Glasgow and St Andrews - are seeking volunteers from the scientific community across Central Scotland to be interviewed about their reading habits. The research team is also encouraging scientists from across the globe to visit the project’s website to share information on their favourite reading matter, and how this influences their work.

Speaking at the launch of the project, Chief Researcher - , commented:

“From Frankenstein to 2001, science has long influenced fiction. But relatively little is known about the significance of the leisure reading of scientists upon their career choices, the experiments they carry out, or how they approach ethical issues relating to their work. In establishing the importance of literature to science, not only will we be conducting interviews with Scotland’s scientific community, but we are also encouraging scientists from Adelaide to Anchorage to visit our website and let us know what they are reading, and why.

Read the full media release –

If you would like to contribute to the project – either by being interviewed (if you are a scientist based in the Scottish Central Belt), or posting information on you fiction reading – please visit www.whatscientistsread.com.


What Scientists Read picture - person reading a book in a park.