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Why You Should Be Scientifically Literate

Science Rendezvous at Yonge Dundas Square - outdoor event for general public to learn about science (Photo: Krystal Seedial)

You don't have to be a scientist to be scientifically literate. Science is for everyone. In fact, many of us might not be aware of it, but science plays a big role in our daily lives.

From our well-being and health care to the products we use to our impact on the environment, we make countless science-based decisions everyday. As renowned chemist Rosalind Franklin once said, "Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated."

What is science literacy?

Science literacy is defined by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as "the ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen." The OECD further states that science literacy means being able to explain scientific phenomena, evaluate and design scientific inquiries and interpret data and draw scientific conclusions.

But why should you become science-literate? Here are some reasons you should explore your inner scientist.

Make informed decisions

Science and technology shape our world. The more science-literate you are, the more informed your decisions and choices are about all facets of life - from hair products to genetic engineering. As Canadian Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan says: "Scientific knowledge must inform decision-making."

Science literacy will teach you the skills used to make decisions by scientists, such as critical thinking and numerical analysis, and apply them to broader areas of your life. For example, a basic understanding of statistics and probability is key to learning how to invest your money.

Be part of the solution

The mission of science is to understand the world around us and come up with solutions for some of its biggest problems. Many of the challenges we face in the 21st century require innovative solutions that, in turn, require scientists to undertake research, apply scientistic procedures and evaluate results.

But that is not enough. As a society, we also need to be knowledgeable and scientifically literate so we are able to understand those challenges and interpret the consequences of scientific discoveries as well as grasp their limitations.

Nurture scientific curiosity in your children

Today's curious child is tomorrow's innovator. "Helping kids nurture their inner scientist and encouraging them to develop the skills needed to investigate and understand the world around them will help them become scientifically literate adults," writes Dr. Imogen Coe, Dean of the Faculty of Science at Ryerson University.

Being scientifically literate will allow you to share the joy of curiosity with your family and children. Encouraging your children to learn about science will equip them with tools they can put to use in other areas of their life.

Outreach events, such as Science Rendezous at Ryerson University, provide great opportunities to experience science in a fun and interactive environment.

Science Rendezvous is an all-day celebration of science in the heart of Toronto at Yonge-Dundas square, and will feature engaging experiments, hands-on activities, stage shows, displays and much more!

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Dr. Emily Agard
Director of SciXchange 
at Ryerson University
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I'm on a mission to make science inclusive, accessible and engaging.

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