Untangling Trustworthiness and Uncertainty in Science: Implications for Science Education

Beth A. Covitt, Charles W. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article focuses on uncertainty—ways in which scientists recognize and analyze limits in their studies and conclusions. We distinguish uncertainty from (un)trustworthiness—ways in which scientific reports can be affected by conscious deception or unconscious bias. Scientific journal articles typically include analyses and quantifications of uncertainty in both quantitative forms (e.g., error bars, ranges of predictions, statistical tests) and qualitative forms (e.g., alternate hypotheses, limitations of studies, questions for future research). These analyses of uncertainty are often incorporated into reports from scientific organizations and responsible scientific journalism. We argue that a critical goal of science education should be to help students understand how science may be employed as an uncertain and limited, yet still useful tool for informing decisions about socioscientific problems. When members of the public are insufficiently prepared to understand analyses and quantifications of uncertainty, the consequences are manifest in public skepticism about science and inadequately informed decision-making about socioscientific issues. We describe current design work in science education that includes a worthwhile emphasis on helping students to recognize and leverage uncertainty in their own data and models. Additional important work can enable students to develop proficiency in seeking out and understanding analyses of continuing uncertainty in media accounts of scientific conclusions and predictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1180
Number of pages26
JournalScience and Education
Volume31
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2022

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