Where do you Learn about Science

A new Pew Internet and American Life Project report (The Internet as a Resource for News and Information about Science)indicates that increasingly, Americans learn about science on the Internet. According to the report, 40 million citizens “..rely on the Internet as their primary source for news and information about science.” Among broadband users, 34% said that they get most of their science news and information from the Internet. Slightly fewer get it from TV.

Far more U.S. online users research about science on the Internet:

  • 70% have used the Internet to look up the meaning of scientific terms.
  • 68% have gone online to look up an answer to a question.
  • 65% have used the Internet to learn more about a science story
  • 55% have used the Internet to complete a science assignment.
  • 52% have used the Internet to check the accuracy of a scientific fact
  • 43% have downloaded scientific data
  • 37% have used the Internet to compare different or opposing scientific theories.

This added up to 87% (128 million adults) of online users who have accessed scientific information from the Internet.

These results provoke several questions to me, as an educator:

  1. If adult society is relying increasingly on the Internet for information about science, to what degree should science students be relying on (learning to use) the Internet?
  2. Are Internet researchers engaging in practices that help to assure the accuracy, reliability, and validity of the information that they find? Where should they be learning these basic literacy skills?
  3. Is there a fundamental difference between accessing the Internet for scientific information and reading it in a newspaper or watching a science program on TV.

Another interesting conclusion from the report was that:

Those who seek out science news or information on the Internet are more likely than others to believe that scientific pursuits have a positive impact on society.

I wonder why this is. Perhaps it goes back to question three above. I wonder if people see Net-based information as coming more from the conversation of that society, whereas newspapers, science news programming, and textbooks are more packaged — and sanitized?

What do you think?

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.