American scientists have been at the pinnacle of scientific research, but when it comes to the general public science isn’t something that they excel in with a new study showing that Americans only scored a ‘D’ in general science.
Pew Research Centre carried out a study on general awareness about scientific topics such as physics, chemistry, geology and astronomy among others on a representative sample of 3,278 US adults and found that on an average Americans were able to answer 7.9 out of 12 questions which converts to a score of 66 per cent.
In the study, participants were asked questions about Earth’s geology, nuclear bombs, gravity, comets, light years, astronomy, astrology, basic physics and chemistry. The research found that while 86 per cent were able to correctly identify the hottest layer of Earth, just 34 per cent were able to answer the question related to water’s boiling point at higher altitudes.
Though the study does reflect the level of general awareness about science, the limited number of questions and the topics from which the questions were derived do not really justify the overall knowledge of any person or community in general.
The research center acknowledges this fact stating that the awareness “about science depends on the kinds of questions asked, of course.”
Pew Research Center cites its previous finding to highlight how experts and members of the general public are of the opinion that U.S. K-12 education in fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) was either “average” or “below average” compared with other developed and industrialized countries.
Experts at American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have pointed out previously that limited knowledge being imparted about science during schooling is a major problem for the scientific enterprise and similar is the case with too little STEM education.
As far as gender gap in awareness about science is concerned, Pew survey found that men outperformed women on many questions – even when a comparison between men and women with similar levels of education was done.
Awareness about certain scientific topics also vary based on the age groups with younger adults aware about latest scientific advances like cellphones and radio waves. However, when it comes to overall awareness, people in the higher age bracket excelled.
The results varied based on ethnicity and race with white adults scoring an average of 6.1 out of 9 questions correctly, as compared to 4.8 for Hispanics and 4.3 for blacks.