A collaborative post with the Fancy Comma
Each day, there is new scientific information to absorb from daily interactions and the media. The most pressing issues facing the world today, like climate change and COVID-19, require scientific understanding and scientific solutions. This post will explain the significance of science literacy with the goal of educating how to arm yourself with the necessary tools to meet the information age from an informed position. With science literacy, the ability to judge truth from fiction becomes a reality.
What is Science Literacy?
Science literacy is the basic understanding of scientific concepts, methods, and research findings to be able to comprehend scientific studies and results. Science literacy involves four interrelated abilities:
1. Determining scientific validity. The awareness of basic scientific standards which validate research such as reproducibility and peer-review.
2. Knowing where to find valid scientific research. Websites such as PubMed and Google Scholar are hubs for peer-reviewed journal articles. Some journals are accepted as legitimate by the scientific community, while others are viewed skeptically.
3. Understanding scientific information and arguments. The basic understanding of scientific concepts and methodology. Perhaps paramount, is the ability to judge the validity of conclusions made in scientific studies based on the presented data and chosen methodology.
4. Applying scientific concepts to other contexts. This means understanding the relationship between research and real world application.
Why is Science Literacy Important?
Science literacy allows us to understand what is happening in the world, how to prepare for the effects, and what you can do to mitigate the impact. Knowing what questions to ask about the information you are presented with will influence the solutions you support. Conflicting explanations, media/political bias, and the shortcomings in science journalism can cloud a scientific message. Science literacy is the power to make your own evidence-based conclusions that can guide your actions (ie: voting, mask wearing, vaccination choice).
How to Improve Your Science Literacy
There are essentially two different means of increasing your level of science literacy. One is to take a “textbook” approach, using learning resources available online, such as PowerPoint lectures, recorded lectures, study guides, or print resources such as textbooks or books.
The other approach is a “learn-as-you-go” approach, reading scientific research and researching the meaning of specific concepts, methods, or findings as you come across them. The key is to make sure that you understand these concepts, methods, and key findings well enough to explain them in simple terms to others. As you read more research your knowledge will continue to build. If using the "learn-as-you-go" approach, be sure to check that the information you gather is coming from a reputable source.
It seems there is an ever-increasing proliferation of competing research and scientific explanations that bring with them a rapidly increasing need for every individual to have a basic level of scientific literacy. Keeping up with this information and making determinations about the legitimacy of competing arguments is no trivial task. To learn more about science literacy, why it matters, and how to gain it, check out our blog post here.