Why science education is more important than most scientists think
by Bruce Alberts
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that a shockingly large fraction of the public is willing to ignore scientific judgements on issues such a vaccines and mask wearing. For far too many, scientific findings are viewed as what scientists believe, rather than as the product of an elaborate community process that produces reliable knowledge. This widespread misunderstanding should serve as a wake-up call for scientists, clearly demonstrating that the standard way that we teach science – as a large collection of “facts” that scientists have discovered about the world – needs major change. Three more ambitious and important goals for science education at all levels are outlined. In order of increasing difficulty, these are: (1) to provide all adults with an ability to investigate scientific problems as scientists do, using logic, experiment, and evidence; (2) to provide all adults with an understanding of how the scientific enterprise works – and why they should therefore trust the consensus judgements of science on issues like smoking, vaccination, and climate change; and (3) to provide all adults with the habit of solving their everyday problems as scientists do, using logic, experiment, and evidence. Although examples exist for attaining all of these goals, extensive education research will be needed to discover how best to teach the last two. I argue that such an effort is urgent, and that it can best begin by focusing on the introductory courses in biology and other science disciplines at the university level.
Read the full article, freely available on the FEBS Letters website.