What the public thinks and knows about science-and why it matters

William K. Hallman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


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 decisionmaking 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Science of Science Communication
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780190497620
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • Measures
  • Public understanding of science
  • Scales
  • Science facts
  • Science literacy

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