Communicating Certainty and Uncertainty in Science in Out-of-School Contexts
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This chapter addresses the importance of understanding certainty and uncertainty in relation to scientific evidence, risk in decision-making, and trust in science and scientists. Following a museum-based story about certainty and scientific evidence, two significant international events are described to demonstrate the consequences of failing to understand uncertainty in science. Research into people’s perceptions about the nature of scientific knowledge is revisited to reveal that adults may think less scientifically after a science-related experience, and examine how values and beliefs relating to the certainty/uncertainty of scientific knowledge are inherent in how science is communicated in public places like museums. It is argued that if people are to be encouraged to think more scientifically about the nature of science and its processes, a greater effort is needed to present science in ways that may be interpreted as controversial, and also communicate uncertainty in scientific evidence. The chapter concludes by exploring how a balanced exhibition might be achieved in this difficult process.
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