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The High Stakes of Science Literacy and Education

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CMC
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Has science literacy ever been more important to Ohio’s future than now?

The return of the COSI Science Festival on May 4-7 will showcase Ohio’s commitment to increasing science literacy and generating interest in – and comfort with – science.

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated reams of misinformation, mistrust of science, and split Americans into opposing camps. But it’s also left many better educated about science and how science works.

According to an article in Wired magazine by Max Levy, the messy trial-and-error of the pandemic has shown many what the process of science really looks like. Science isn’t necessarily about answers – it’s an ongoing data-driven process to distinguish plausible answers from wrong ones. As the data changes, so can the answers.

With COVID-19, science faced the twin challenges of both understanding a novel (new) virus while simultaneously educating the public about it. The scientific understanding of COVID mutated rapidly with new discoveries; this is the way of science, yet for those unfamiliar with the scientific process, this changing understanding often fueled mistrust of science.

When people understand science, they become more likely to support science funding, to accept community health measures, and to embrace a healthy skepticism of misinformation. By making people less susceptible to misinformation, boosting science literacy can even be a means of protecting a stable democracy. Science literacy is even a social determinant of health: consider the value of being able to read and understand a drug label or take basic measures to protect one’s health.

Science literacy is also a key to a healthy and growing economy: the announcement by computer chip giant Intel that it will build at least two new chip factories in Central Ohio, with others likely to follow, is a vote of confidence in Ohio’s current and future ability to produce scientifically-literate employees. What does the state need to do to ensure that this confidence was well-placed and deserved?

What needs to happen in partnerships between private industry, public agencies, educators, and nonprofits to lay the right kind of foundation for the type of broad science literacy that will be required to sustain industries like Intel and to keep them supplied with qualified employees?

The importance of science literacy comes to the CMC stage with a panel of experts including Frederic Bertley, Ph.D., President and CEO of COSI, and COSI Science Festival partners Lou Von Thaer, President and CEO of Battelle, and Joanna M. Pinkerton, President/CEO, COTA, with moderator Angela An, news anchor with WBNS-10TV.