Project Lily

Aims and objectives

Project Lily (Norwegian: Vilje-con-valg) aims to develop new knowledge and theoretical perspectives, and to stimulate informed discussion, of how to recruit and retain more young people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.


The project was initiated by the Norwegian Centre for Science Education and the Department of Physics, University of Oslo, in 2008. It receives support from a number of public and private stakeholders.

Lily focuses on students in Norwegian universities, colleges and upper secondary schools, and an issue challenging the Norwegian as well as many other Western societies: Few young people in general, and girls in particular, choose to pursue an education and career in, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In addition to the challenge of recruiting more students to STEM higher education, the institutions face the problem of drop-out. The term “dropout” is commonly used for describing the phenomenon of students quitting their study before they pass the final examination. However, we may also look at this as a deliberate "opting out" of STEM rather than passively "dropping out".

The overall aim of Lily is to contribute to improving recruitment, retention and gender equity patterns in STEM educations and careers.

Specifically, the project seeks improved understanding of the following questions:

  1. What are the priorities, considerations, values and experiences on which young people base their educational choice (with specific attention to STEM choice)?
  2. What are the success factors for initiatives and efforts aimed at recruiting more young people to STEM?
  3. How to understand dropout/opt-out? For what reasons do STEM students decide to leave their education before graduation? What are the success factors for initiatives and efforts aimed at counteracting dropout?

Lily is a follow-up of the international project ROSE: The Relevance of Science Education. ROSE is an international comparative project meant to shed light on affective factors of importance to the learning of science and technology. Key international research institutions and individuals work jointly on the development of theoretical perspectives, research instruments, data collection and analysis.

Lily is related to, and has served as a pilot to, the IRIS project (Interests & Recruitment In Science), which is an international research project focusing on factors influencing recruitment, retention and gender equity in science, technology and mathematics higher education.

Project leaders were Ellen K. Henriksen and Maria Vetleseter Bøe.