Saturday, February 15, 2014

What Do You Know?

The NSF has released (pdf format, 53 pages) the results of a wide ranging survey about scientific literacy and opinions on various topics from geneticly modified food to nuclear power. The survey covered both the EU and the US and in general the US came out slightly better. Good for us. In the Scientific literacy department a set of twenty-two questions were asked with true/false or multiple choice answers. Results varied from question to question. Ex:

5. Although the data clearly show a difference in how respondents answer to different question types, these data do not provide guidance as to what caused the difference. A
range of explanations are possible.
7. Twenty questions used a true-or-false format. These included: (1) “Hot air rises” (true; Europe correct: 91%, United States correct: 95%); (2) “The continents have been
moving for millions of years and will continue to move in the future” (true; Europe correct: 86%, United States correct: 80%);

The somewhat depressing questions:
9) “The earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs” (false; Europe cor
-rect: 61%, United States correct: 43%)

21) whether the sun moves around the Earth, whether the Earth moves around the sun (correct), or neither the sun or the Earth moves (Europe correct: 80%, United States correct: 82%)
Now having 18% of your population believe #21 is embarrassing. Still we are probably talking about the bottom quintile on the ol' bell shaped curve. I'd be more concerned with the results from #9 at this point.

Don't be intimidated by the size of the paper. The literacy results are on page 48. Other items to note is that skepticism about AGM increases with the economic development of your country, and a distinct majority favor the development of nuclear power.

Read as much of it as you can, and feel free to skip the boring bits to get to the results.

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