So what is science literacy? Is it your ability to spit back science facts? Or is it that you can use those facts to make decisions? Or is it if you accept scientific evidence regarding issues like evolution or genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs? Let's start by considering science facts. Many assessments of science literacy focus on determining how many basic science facts an individual knows. For example, knowing that water boils at lower temperatures at higher altitudes. We run into this all the time where I live. I'm over 5000 feet above sea level and I have all sorts of annotations and modifications in my cookbook to adjust for baking in higher altitude. However, how does science education that can be focused on memorizing basic facts about the world stay relevant in an age when the Internet is generally accessible for people? All those facts are just a Google search away. We can easily find science facts, is that still a good benchmark of science literacy? This fits into other ways of thinking about science literacy too. If science education really focuses on memorizing facts it can have the opposite effect on overall science literacy, fostering ideas about science that it is merely about fact finding, not an iterative, creative, and exciting process. More on that in module two. Maybe science literacy is more about skills. The next generation science standards in the United States include an emphasis on science practices, or things that real world scientists actually do every day, like make arguments using evidence or using inquiry to generate new knowledge. If someone can generate a good argument, one that uses evidence to support a claim and reason with that evidence, does that make them scientifically literate? Or perhaps it's not necessarily your ability to generate a good scientific argument, but that you can identify when someone else is making a scientific argument and if the evidence they're using is actually quality evidence. Well, what do I mean by quality evidence? Well, evidence that scientists use refers to information or observations that are used to provide support or refute a particular proposition. It could include data that's generated through scientific inquiry, or the data that you get in an end of the experiment. It can also include observations that are made as well. For example, observations of a particular new species. But what about quality evidence? Just like there are many ways of doing science, there are many ways to producing evidence as well. Laboratory data with proper controls generates one type of data, observation protocols produce another kind of data. Evaluating quality has to be taken in the context of the question at hand. For example, let's say you want to test if a new treatment works to help decrease nausea in pregnant women. Good evidence for this study would include a control group. So this is an example of a time where we want to control group because we want to compare the impact of our new treatment versus either not treating at all or what's called the standard of care. And we also need a large number of people when we're doing these kinds of health studies in humans as well. This needs to be in the thousands if not millions of people. Where as ethnographic research, it's appropriate to have a very small number of people involved. If you're studying culture, it's okay to maybe have five to ten individuals. Because so many factors influence human health and medicine, it's really important for these kinds of studies that the procedures are tested in many, many individuals before getting approval. And we'll come back to this idea and how clinical trials work in course four. Is a control group always required? Not necessarily, evidence can be generated through two general ways. Deductively, which I just described with the control group, in our example with the women who are pregnant. Or inductively, which means you start with an observation, and then you work later to deductively test those observations with a hypothesis. Inductive research is also called theory building research, meaning that it takes many different observations and connects them in a way to provide new explanations and new ideas for something that we see. This can be done through observational or ethnographic research, which is when scientists interact with people in their own cultures and their own environments to generate new understanding. Another way of thinking about this is the study of paleontology. Paleontologists study fossils or remnants of plants and animals that have turned to stone over the passage of time. They make observations about what species they find and where they found them, as well as looking at other traces of the species such as coprolites or dino poo and propose theories to explain the patterns that they see. Finding new fossils adds to the theory and could change it slightly. Okay, so maybe being able to recognize not only scientific evidence in all its many flavors, but good scientific evidence is the key to science literacy. Or maybe it's one step beyond that, being able to use evidence to reason to make decisions or claims. Justifying a claim using evidence is something we know students struggle with. What this entails is taking the evidence at hand and using it to make a decision. For example, looking at the overwhelming evidence that vaccines save lives, compared to the small number of people who do have severe adverse reactions to vaccines. So for reference, the Centers for Disease Control in the United States estimates about 1 in 1 million vaccines will have an adverse reaction. In comparison, your chances of being killed in a car accident in the United States are about 1 in 100. So it's important to balance all of these different streams of information when making the decision about whether or not you're going to stay up to date on vaccines. One could argue that how people use scientific evidence to reason about decisions that impact all of us. This is everything from public health issues like vaccines to policy and economic decisions regarding climate change, could serve as a benchmark of science literacy. The definition that I like to use and the one that informs this course, is the combination of foundational knowledge and the ability to leverage that knowledge to make decisions or to engage in a productive dialogue with someone else. Coming back to biology everywhere, this foundational knowledge is presented through the lens of our daily experiences not as descriptions of biological concepts. My thought is that if you can engage with it and relate to it, it facilitates that second part of science literacy, being able to use that knowledge. For example, if you understand how and why reusable bags are better for the environment, and non living species on this planet. That helps you make choices about shopping but it also helps you engage in dialogue in your community about plastic bag bans as well. And those of you who are teachers, how do we assess science literacy? And even more importantly, how do we foster science literacy? And what is at stake for all of us if rampant science literacy prevails?