Enabling students to understand and analyse contemporary issues in science and technology

Scientific Literacy

What do we mean by 'scientific literacy'?

One way of answering the question is to identify the knowledge and skills to be expected of a scientifically literate person.

We would expect a scientifically literate person to be able to:

  • appreciate and understand the impact of science and technology on everyday life, on economic and social change and on the environment;
  • take informed personal decisions about things that involve science, such as health, diet, use of energy resources;
  • read and understand the essential points of media reports about matters that involve science;
  • reflect critically on the information included in, and (often more important) omitted from, such reports and hence make some estimate as to its reliability and significance;
  • take part confidently in discussions with others about issues involving science;
  • know something of the ways in which new scientific knowledge is created and how processes within the scientific community aim to ensure the reliability of new knowledge

Consumers not producers of science

Most people are unlikely ever to be producers of new scientific knowledge. But we all need to be informed users and consumers of scientific knowledge, whether or not we use science in our work. For this, we need to have some understanding of two quite distinct kinds of thing:

Ideas about How Science Works and Science explanations.

Knowledge and understanding of these ideas and explanations underpins our definition of scientific literacy.