In preparation for starting my masters I’ve been doing some extra reading which means I’ve actually had to get books out of the library. I feel like I’m getting super ready to start postgraduate study! One book that I’ve taken out, Communicating Science to the Public, is a collection of journal papers about science communication and although it’s not on the recommended reading list, I thought it would be a good idea to branch out and take extra reading in manageable chunks.
The first paper I’ve read however, threw a bit of a curveball in terms of answering the question ‘is science literacy important?’ The conclusion of it was that it wasn’t essential to modern day living. The closing sentence of the paper read: ‘it should be easier to make the communication of science effective if we agree on why we are doing it in the first place.’ I’m not lying when I say that this was a bit of a shot to the heart.
Throughout the paper it keeps downplaying the role that science communication has in society by analysing the effect that scientific literacy has on making political decisions, economic return, the presence of non- rational views of the universe (e.g creationism), societal behaviour and ethical world views. People, especially those who do science might assume that science is fundamental to understanding how everything works, from gravity to our own bodies, science could tell us the answer. It seemed though, that in every case, having a basic understanding of science had no effect on any of those areas as there were too many examples of people that go against the grain.
Other conclusions were that science literacy was not essential to get a job and I totally agree with this, that’s why there are so many degrees floating about in universities. It’s common knowledge that science isn’t the only thing worth learning. The writer, W. M. Laetsch, then went so far as to say that ‘science literacy will take care of itself.’ Does this end my career prospects? No, it does not. If I let such a small paper put me off pursuing my chosen career then I don’t deserve to succeed. For people to absorb science by themselves though, there needs to be some digestible science available which is where is where I magically jump into action.
Personally, I think that this is just one person expressing their opinion, in the same way that I express my views in my blog. Except this person has published a paper about it and labelled science communication as something that possibly doesn’t need to exist.
If you want to read the paper, see the reference below:
Laetsch, W.M., 1987. A basis for better public understanding of science. Communicating science to the public, pp.1-18.