Science literacy and the Science Media Centre

For years it was thought that if you could just equip people with adequate knowledge about science, make them science literate so to speak, they would more readily accept evidence and factor it into their decision-making processes.

Increasingly, however, that is proving an oversimplistic view of the world, and the complicated human beings that inhabit it. Much of this is to do with what neuro scientists call ‘motivated reasoning’, which posits that reasoning and emotion are inseparable. When we receive factual information, we overlay the facts with our own biases, points of view and values.” (p.23)

Scientists have had to work hard to gain the trust of the public and to prove the relevance of their work to society. The global financial crisis has only increased the importance of that as scientists try to justify ‘big science’ projects like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is instrumental in the search for the Higgs Boson…. Scientists working on the LHC have made a determined effort to open a window into their research, to the extent that in December they revealed early proof for the existence of the Higgs Boson before the results had been fully confirmed.

Increasingly, science is happening this way, with the public being taken along on the journey of discovery, rather than hearing about it for the first time when the results are published in a scientific journal. Such openness helps people understand that science is a messy process, where researchers will often go down numerous dead ends before making discoveries and where initial results are regularly discounted in subsequent testing.

The more willing scientists are to engage in this way, by valuing science communication as an integral part of what they do, the more trust that is built up and the more likely the public is …to ‘buy into’ their research aims.” (p.24)

“…when it is business people, politicians, iwi elders or school teachers talking about science, the message can have greater ‘cut-through’, which is why science literacy across all of those groups is vital. They are opinion leaders and have the power to influence on a large scale.” (p.24)

Griffin points to “a desire among scientists to use new media to reach the public through science blogging, publishing video and podcasts online and using social networks to bring scientists together with people interested in science.” (p.24)

He also highly reccommends Chris Mooney’s The Science of Why we Don’t Believe Science, Mother Jones May/June 2011

Ref: Peter Griffin (2012) Science literacy is vital! New Zealand Science Teacher 129, pp.23-24


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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