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GRC poster- final

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Published on January 12, 2009

Author: aSGuest10201

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Slide 1: Acknowledgments I would like to thank Jason Scott Robert, members of the Robert lab, Françoise Baylis, and members of the Novel Genetic Technologies research team at Dalhousie University. This work was funded by a grant from the Canadian Stem Cell Network to JSR and FB. Introduction Scientific literacy is needed to ensure the democratic organization of science. Scientific literacy provides the foundation for public trust in science, as it enables citizens to assess scientific information. In turn, public trust supports scientific research– when trust wavers, science loses stability. I suggest that science policy should aim to develop public trust by promoting education for scientific literacy. I use the example of genetics to illustrate the differences between science literacy and scientific literacy; scientific literacy is required to facilitate democratic public participation in science policy development. Public Trust Trusting does not refer to blind deference, but rather the ability to evaluate claims with informed judgment (O’Neill, 2002). At the 1975 Asilomar conference on recombinant DNA technology, scientists were trusted to make safe decisions about the future of research in the field. However, 20 years later, scientists and commentators at the Asilomar Symposium on Science, Ethics, and Society, considered its possible application to contemporary genetics policy, and concluded a similar policy model would no longer work, largely because the public no longer trusts scientists (Capron and Schapiro, 2001). How do we establish trust? We are most comfortable placing trust in face-to-face relationships, as they enable us to check the credibility of the source and engage with the information, as well as the informer. Specialized science information is most readily available on the internet, which restricts the opportunity for interaction. In order to create a trust-worthy environment, we need a way to actively check claims. This cannot be achieved by simply reading more newspapers, or spending more time on the internet(O’Neil, 2002). Scientific literacy will help develop the infrastructure for active engagement. How do we build public trust in science? I suggest that education for scientific literacy is the long-term answer, which would empower citizens with knowledge about the methods, processes and culture of science. Scientific literacy should be promoted to compliment science literacy, which in contrast, focuses on information content, such as the function of a gene. Scientific Literacy and Public Trust in Science Mary Sunderland — School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ References Capron, A. and Schapiro, R. 2001. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 44: 162-69. Collins, F., Morgan, M. and Patrinos, A. 2003. Science 300: 286-290. Educating the European Public for Biotechnology. http://www.boku.ac.at/iam/ebe Feynman, RP. 1998. The Meaning of it All. Persus Books, Reading, Massachusetts. Freire, P. 1972. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Herder and Herder, New York, New York. Jennings, B. 2003. Genetic Citizenship: Knowledge and Empowerment in Personal and Civic Health. Hastings Center. http://www.thehastingscenter.org/research/prog1/genbiotech_3.htm Kitcher, P. 2001. Science, Truth and Democracy. Oxford University Press, New York, New York. Longino, H. 1990. Science as Social Knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Maienschein, J. with students. 1998. Science 281: 917. O’Neil, O. 2002. A Question of Trust. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. For further information Please contact mary.sunderland@asu.edu. SCIENTIFIC LITERACY Education can empower or domesticate Empowerment requires an education which promotes: Power awareness. Know who exercises power, to what end, and how it is organized. Critical Literacy. Analytic habits to apply meaning from your own context. Desocialization. Recognize the myths, values, behaviours, and language of mass culture. Self-organization/Self-education. Take the initiative to transform school and society. Initiate social change (Freire, 1972). Interpretive resources To assess scientific information, there needs to be education about the processes and the methods of science. To make sense of conflicting opinions and information, it is important to be aware of assumptions and concepts inherent to basic scientific methodologies: Observation. Science uses observation as a method of discovery. It is important to note that conclusions are relative to perspective and context, and evolve as science develops (Kitcher, 2001). Observation is theory laden. Uncertainty. “All scientific knowledge is uncertain” (Feynman, 1998, p26). All conclusions made by science are only tested guesses at what might happen. Science is a social process. Science does not occur in a vacuum; it is influenced and shaped by the social context in which it is practiced (Longino, 1990). Using policy to promote scientific literacy: the case of genetics Policy makers have an opportunity to shape the course of genomics education. Collins et al. (2003) have suggested very broad guidelines, such as educational programs that cater to different levels of expertise and are easily available in different media. Rather than a curriculum that is determined and designed by “experts”, we should consider what information will best serve different communities, and how to best make that material assessable by each community. Scientific literacy instills citizens with interpretive resources and fosters “scientific ways of knowing and thinking critically and creatively about the natural world” and “the ability to distinguish between reliable scientific information from unsubstantiated claims and pseudoscience” (Maienschein and students, 1998). In contrast, Science literacy transfers information from the experts to the public, for example, knowledge about the mechanism of DNA replication. Scientific literacy is needed to compliment science literacy. Together they provide the foundation on which to build public trust in science by fostering the ability to assess scientific claims, especially competing claims. Conclusion Educating for scientific literacy would increase public trust in science by providing a foundation for informed judgment. Interpretive tools would facilitate democratic policy development. Science does not occur in a vacuum and reveal the objective truth, but rather is a process that takes place in a social context. Scientific literacy would compliment science literacy and empower citizens to form their own opinions, thus resulting in better science policy for all: policy that reflects the public interest. SCIENCE LITERACY PUBLIC TRUST SCIENCE Genetic Literacy “Literacy means both the ability to understand one’s needs and interests and the power to act to protect and promote those needs and interests” (Jennings, 2003, p2). Genetic literacy should not be viewed as a skill to teach an individual, but as a capacity to foster in a community. A genetically literate community requires resources and infrastructure to facilitate effective, representative participation.

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