What are "scientific capabilities"? Working scientists have trouble distinguishing them from more general skills, such as commitment, numeracy, communication, working in teams and forging good relationships.
But when pressed by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, they came up with the following, many of which apply to all sorts of other fields of work:
* practical capabilities, including safety, reliability, good observation and accuracy;
* problem solving by experimentation;
* decision-making by weighing evidence (a skill which helps them move into other jobs);
* scientific "habits of mind", such as scepticism, logical thinking and considering all options;
* understanding of important scientific and mathematical ideas.
Michael Coles, the NCVQ science adviser, told a session at the ASE that the scientists did not really mind which scientific ideas fledgling boffins understood. Mr Coles was able to tell the meeting: "Nobody I have interviewed has complained about the level of knowledge of students leaving universities. "