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Triple-A S: Advancing Science, Serving Society


Science in Plain Language?

The world is likely to become more dependent on science and technology, but ironically, the more complex some technologies become, the easier they are to use. Thus, while we rely more and more on science and technology, we are also more likely to take it for granted.

Scientific and technological advances are almost seamlessly woven into the fabric of our lives. As our lives become more dependent upon science and technology–a basic understanding has become a requirement for most careers.

As they have for over 40 years, Americans in all demographic groups consistently endorse the past achievements and future promise of S&T, according to NSF’s latest Science and Engineering Indicators. This biennial report to Congress provides a broad base of quantitative information about U.S. science, engineering, and technology. Another interesting finding is that despite a general decline in confidence in institutional leaders that has spanned more than three decades, confidence in science leaders has remained relatively stable.

Yet there is a cultural knowledge gap between the scientific community and the public at large. People understand that science and technology have brought into their lives things that are powerful, wonderful, exciting, life-saving, and maybe even dangerous; but they are confused about fundamental concepts such as risk and probability and by scientific studies that might seem to the casual observer to contradict one another.

In a 2009 report, Pew found that “Most Americans express at least a passing interest in news about science, with 35% saying they enjoy keeping up with science news “a lot” and another 41% saying they enjoy keeping up with it “some.” Only about a quarter (24%) say they do not enjoy following news about science. By comparison, 54% of Americans say they enjoy keeping with the news in general a lot.”

So if the interest is there, how do we take it beyond “interest” to engagement and understanding? How do we tell the story of science to a public that may be unaware of how science is done or how you come to know something in science? The Science in Plain Language section of our site exists to help equip you for this task, by providing communication strategies and tools to help you tell the story of science.