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date: 16 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Modern conceptions of science literacy include knowledge of science facts; a grasp of scientific methods, norms, and practices; awareness of current discoveries and controversies involving science and refinement of the ability to comprehend and evaluate their implications; the capability to assess the priorities and actions of scientific institutions; and the capacity to engage in civic discourse and decision-making with regard to specific issues involving science. Advocates of increased science literacy maintain that widespread public understanding of science benefits individuals, culture, society, the economy, the nation, democracy, and science itself. This chapter argues that the relatively crude measures currently employed to assess science literacy are insufficient to demonstrate these outcomes. It is difficult to know whether these benefits are real and are independent of greater levels of education. Existing measures should be supplanted by multidimensional scales that are parsimonious, easy to administer, reliable, and valid over time and across cultures.

Keywords: science literacy, public understanding of science, measures, scales, science facts

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