The last decade of the 20th century finds science and journalism at a crossroads with the American public. Both institutions are concerned about the decline of literacy and its impact on the ascribed credibility of science and journalism in the U.S. The erosion of popular support for both professions is accompanied by poor public knowledge about how scientific inquiry is conducted and how news is manufactured.

The well accepted strategy to enhance the credibility of science and improve the public’s appreciation for science is to improve the public’s science literacy. But differences between scientists and journalists have emerged in recent years, because reporters and editors refuse to participate with scientists in well-coordinated and orchestrated strategies to improve the public’s science literacy.

This essay introduces the rift between scientists and journalists to enhance the public’s knowledge about science and focuses on assumptions about improving science literacy. It is argued that improving science literacy provides a questionable premise to base the public understanding of science. It is proposed that scientific as well as journalistic credibility will be enhanced by a new dialogue between scientists and the public that helps the public adapt to scientific and technological change rather than current efforts to improve the public’s knowledge about science, or boost science literacy. The introduction of initiatives to improve scientific literacy is seen as viable only after the public’s voice regarding science, technology and change is returned to a more participatory status.

The author hopes that better remedies to improve the public’s understanding of science, science literacy and journalistic credibility would be welcomed by scientists, journalists and the public, especially if current strategies are ill-grounded and not efficacious.

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Dialogue
A step before science literacy

Robert A. Logan   University of Missouri

The last decade of the 20th century finds science and journalism at a crossroads with the American public. Both institutions are concerned about the decline of literacy and its impact on the ascribed credibility of science and journalism in the U.S. The erosion of popular support for both professions is accompanied by poor public knowledge about how scientific inquiry is conducted and how news is manufactured.

The well accepted strategy to enhance the credibility of science and improve the public’s appreciation for science is to improve the public’s science literacy. But differences between scientists and journalists have emerged in recent years, because reporters and editors refuse to participate with scientists in well-coordinated and orchestrated strategies to improve the public’s science literacy.

This essay introduces the rift between scientists and journalists to enhance the public’s knowledge about science and focuses on assumptions about improving science literacy. It is argued that improving science literacy provides a questionable premise to base the public understanding of science. It is proposed that scientific as well as journalistic credibility will be enhanced by a new dialogue between scientists and the public that helps the public adapt to scientific and technological change rather than current efforts to improve the public’s knowledge about science, or boost science literacy. The introduction of initiatives to improve scientific literacy is seen as viable only after the public’s voice regarding science, technology and change is returned to a more participatory status.

The author hopes that better remedies to improve the public’s understanding of science, science literacy and journalistic credibility would be welcomed by scientists, journalists and the public, especially if current strategies are ill-grounded and not efficacious.

[PDF 290.63 kB]Download the full paper (PDF 290.63 kB)

BACK TO TOP