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Scientific Literacy

Revised: Oct. 2012

Provided by the NASA Headquarters Library

"The trouble with people is not that they don’t know but that they know so much that ain’t so." - Josh Billings.

Scientific literacy is a familiarity with the concepts and processes of science. Since the Industrial Revolution, scientific literacy has been as much a goal of a well-rounded education in America as a familiarity with the events and trends of our nation's history. Recently, several questions have arisen about scientific literacy:


  • Which of these concepts and processes should be taught in American primary and secondary schools?
  • How scientifically literate are Americans, compared to people from other nations?
  • How many Americans are willing and able to enter technically oriented jobs, especially as more and more jobs in our economy depend on workers' high-tech skills?
  • Will there be enough young scientists, engineers, and technicians to fill the vacant jobs that will be left after Baby Boomers retire?

This webpage covers the state of American scientific literacy. You may also find some interesting resources at our webpages on Human Capital Management in the Technical Fields, Science Education, or Science Policy. If you are a NASA HQ employee, please consider subscribing to our news alert on science education to get the latest word on the subject.

The following is a select bibliography of pertinent materials accessible to the patrons of the NASA HQ Library. All items are available at the Headquarters Library, except as noted. NASA Headquarters employees and contractors: Call x0168 or email Library@hq.nasa.gov for information on borrowing or in-library use of any of these items. Members of the public: Contact your local library for the availability of these items. NASA Headquarters employees can request additional materials or research on this topic. The Library welcomes your comments or suggestions about this webpage.

Contents: Books E-books Articles and Reports Internet Resources


Arrison, Thomas, Rapporteur. Rising Above the Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future. Summary of a Convocation. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780309128711
LC1087 .U47 R57 2009 BOOKSTACKS
Online as an e-book at the National Academies Press.
Commission on Mathematics and Science Education. The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy. New York, NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York; Princeton, NJ: Institute for Advanced Study, 2009.
QA11 .C665 O676 2009 BOOKSTACKS
Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2007. ISBN: 0309100399
LC1087 .R57 2007 BOOKSTACKS
Online as an e-book at the National Academies Press.
Gould, Stephen Jay, et al. Science Literacy for the Twenty-first Century. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003.
Q183.3 .A1 S3565 2002 BOOKSTACKS
Jackson, Shirley Ann. Envisioning A 21st Century Science and Engineering Workforce for the United States: Tasks for University, Industry, and Government. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2003. ISBN: 0309088569
Q149 .U5 J33 2003 BOOKSTACKS
Online as an e-book at the National Academies Press.
National Science Board. The Science and Engineering Workforce: Realizing America's Potential. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2003.
Q149 .U5 N38 W67 2003 BOOKSTACKS
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. PISA 2006: Science Competencies for Tomorrow's World. Paris, France: OECD, 2007. ISBN: 9789264040007
LB2823 .P57 2007 BOOKSTACKS
Rising Above the Gathering Storm Committee. Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780309160971
LC1087 .R575 2010 BOOKSTACKS
Online as an e-book at the National Academies Press.
Technology for All Americans Project. Advancing Excellence in Technological Literacy: Student Assessment, Professional Development, and Program Standards. Reston, VA: International Technology Education Association, 2003. ISBN: 1887101039
T65.3 .A48 2003 BOOKSTACKS
Trefil, James. Why Science?. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press, 2008.
Q181 .T8195 2008 BOOKSTACKS


The e-books listed below are available to NASA civil servants and contractors through the Books 24×7 service of SATERN.
Estrin, Judy. Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy. McGraw-Hill, 2009. ISBN: 9780071499873
Gordon, Edward E.. Winning the Global Talent Showdown: How Businesses and Communities Can Partner to Rebuild the Jobs Pipeline. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009. ISBN: 9781576756164
Trilling, Bernie, and Charles Fadel. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life In Our Times. Jossey-Bass, 2009. ISBN: 9780470475386
Wilhelm, Anthony G. Digital Nation: Toward an Inclusive Information Society. The MIT Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780262232388
The e-books listed below are available to the general public through the National Academies Press.
Arrison, Tom, and Steve Olson, Rapporteurs. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Developing Regional Innovation Environments: A Workshop Summary, 2012. ISBN: 9780309256049
Committee on Conceptual Framework for the New K-12 Science Education Standards. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, 2012. ISBN: 9780309217422
Committee on Standards for K-12 Engineering Education. Standards for K-12 Engineering Education?. 2010. ISBN: 9780309160155
Fox, Marye Anne. Pan-Organizational Summit on the U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Meeting Summary, 2003. ISBN: 9780309089609
Gamire, Elsa, and Greg Pearson (eds.). Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy, 2006. ISBN: 9780309101837
Hilton, Margaret, Rapporteur. Exploring the Intersection of Science Education and 21st Century Skills: A Workshop Summary, 2010. ISBN: 9780309145183
Hollweg, Karen S., and David Hill (eds.). What Is the Influence of the National Science Education Standards?: Reviewing the Evidence, A Workshop Summary, 2003. ISBN: 9780309090070
Pearson, Greg, and A. Thomas Young (eds.). Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology, 2002. ISBN: 9780309082624

Articles and Reports

Ainsworth, Heather L., and Sarah Elaine Eaton. Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences. Eaton International Consulting Inc., Calgary, Canada, 2010.
Available at http://www.eatonintl.com/www.eatonintl.com/Research_files/Formal,%20non-formal%20and%20informal%20learning%20in%20the%20sciences.pdf
Brewer, Carol. "Scientific Literacy in the Classroom", ActionBioscience.org, 2008.
Available at http://www.actionbioscience.org/education/brewer.html
Dawkins, KR, and DL Dickerson. "Students' conceptions of scientific theories", in: Proceedings of the 76th Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Philadelphia, PA, 2003.
Available at http://ebookbrowse.com/student-conceptions-scientific-theories-pdf-d294611003
Loepp, Franzie L. "Standards: Mathematics and Science Compared to Technological Literacy", Journal of Technology Studies, vol. XXX, no. 1 (Winter 2004), p. 2-10.
Available through ERIC as document no. EJ905116.
National Assessment Governing Board. Science Framework for the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. National Assessment Governing Board, Washington, DC, 2010.
(ED512554 (2010) ERIC)
Sandall, Barbara R. "Elementary Science: Where Are We Now?", Journal of Elementary Science Education, vol. XV, no. 2 (Fall 2003), p. 13-30.
Available through ERIC as document no. EJ852419.

Internet Resources

AAAS Project 2061. 2012 [Oct. 25, 2012].
The Foundation for Scientific Literacy. July 29, 2010 [Oct. 25, 2012].
International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy. 2011 [Oct. 25, 2012].
International Technology Education Association. 2011 [Oct. 25, 2012].
National Bureau of Economic Research. Science and Engineering Workforce Project. Oct. 24, 2012 [Oct. 25, 2012].
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Programme for International Student Assessment. Oct. 24, 2012 [Oct. 25, 2012].
This program and the one below it examine the state of scientific literacy among students all over the world.
U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. 2012 [Oct. 25, 2012].
Western Michigan University. Scientific Literacy and Cultural Studies Project. March 11, 2009 [Oct. 25, 2012]

Last Updated: Oct. 2012