I think the same dynamics apply here as to other literature: sympathetic, compelling characters facing a series of difficulties before finding something important or valuable. I see long-form science writing as a combination detective tale and child’s adventure story. There is this great dark unknown, and there are these odd characters determined to bring some light into it—discoverers trekking off into the wilderness. There are intriguing clues, and false starts, and competitors, and despair, and—you hope—success.
Take a look!