Executive Director, Marine Science Research Institute, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL, USA
Received date March 13, 2012; Accepted date March 15, 2012; Published date March 17, 2012
Citation: Quinton White A (2012) The Importance of Scientific Literacy. J Marine Sci Res Development 2:e102. doi:10.4172/2155-9910.1000e102
Copyright: © 2012 Quinton White A. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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As we strive for recognition by our peers by publishing the results of our scientific investigations into the vast arena that is marine science in peer-reviewed journals, are we missing the bigger need? It is only a slight exaggeration that in order for the world to survive, far into the future, it is critical that the people have a basic understanding of scientific principles. The human population of the world needs to have a higher level of scientific literacy than they currently exhibit. And perhaps most alarming is the fact that many people, especially in the United States, are showing signs that even the well educated do not understand modern day scientific discoveries. This occurs at the same time as many voice optimism that technology will bring advances necessary to feed, to house and to provide clean water to the ever growing number of the world’s population. We, as scientists, need to step up our efforts to communicate our knowledge and understanding to the general public. Writing journal articles for our peers and teaching select classes is not enough. We must reach out to people everywhere to explain the complexities of science in a manner that they can understand.
In the United States, and in some other counties, there is skepticism in accepting scientific understanding of such things as climate change, global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and evolution. Yet, at the same time, people and governments are relying on technology to provide clean water and a sustainable food supply. When did science become something people believe in, rather than understand? Perhaps the problem is that we scientist have made the subject so complex and we have been unwilling to simplify the discussions so that the average person can understand what we are discussing. We write journal articles that appeal to a very small, very select audience and leave the actually interpretation and dissemination of that information to others.
But the solution may be fairly simple and involve reaching out to children through their teachers. We can invite teachers into our labs as summer laboratory assistants. We can help them understand what we do and why. We can let them get hands-on experience in real world science that they in turn can take back to their classrooms and students. Too many students fear science, thinking that of it as being too hard, too difficult and that they cannot see themselves with a career in science. But by involving teachers in what we do, they too can understand how science works and be able to translate what we do to terms that students can grasp.
The other aspect is to make ourselves available to classes and organizations of all levels to explain, in understandable terms, science and what it means to be a scientist. People really do seem to understand, but sometimes that use the excuse they do not believe in “fill-in-theblank” because they do not understand it. Vast complex issues like evolution and climate change have become too political because people in general do not understand the issue. They hide behind that lack of comprehension with an I don’t believe in “blank.”
This is not to be little the research we do, or the tremendous amount of time and energy we devote to understanding the marine ecosystems, but to encourage us the take a holistic approach to educating the world about what we do and why. It is very important that we continue to publish our research results in refereed journals. Having our peers review, comment and correct our data and interpretations is critical to the process of science. But we also have a much larger mission. And in this age of instant communication, short attention spans and thirst for more now, we must be aggressive in our outreach to teachers and students. Too much is at stake not to take our role seriously.