Becoming a citizen scientist: How to develop scientific literacy

Josh Kahen/File

Related Posts

As many humanities majors know, scientific knowledge can be hard to understand, and it isn’t easily accessible to those not educated in how to read about it. When we get sick, we have no idea what’s wrong with us and may employ useless tactics to make ourselves feel better. After listening to a podcast by Max Lugavere, a New York Times best-selling author and self-proclaimed “citizen scientist,” I was inspired to explore the term “scientific literacy” a bit further.

Our community needs to become more proactive regarding its development of scientific literacy. Across several definitions, scientific literacy essentially boils down to one’s ability to extrapolate scientific reasoning and conclusions and meaningfully apply it to their everyday lives. So, instead of browsing through shady health fad articles, there is a call for people to start reading research and following evidence-based science.

Here are a few ways to expand your scientific literacy outside of reading books and work toward becoming a citizen scientist, regardless of what your professional background and interests are!

Start with PubMed

PubMed offers a plethora of free articles on cutting-edge biomedical research that explore just about any question you might’ve had about anything, ever. Despite intimidating medical jargon, there is a lot that can be learned from simply looking up a question you have and reading up on the latest research in that field. You can develop proficiency in medical jargon, find new topics to chat about with your doctors and gain insight into how the world of research really works.

Listen to more podcasts

We have another article listing some great podcast recommendations here. But, really, podcasts are an amazing way to expand your scientific knowledge! Think of podcasts as an endless supply of free audiobooks that you can listen to on your way to class, while commuting or while just cleaning your room. One popular podcast is “Hidden Brain” from NPR, hosted by Shankar Vedantam. On Hidden Brain, Vedantam invites many revered scientists to explain relatively complex scientific phenomena in interesting and entertaining ways, using layman’s terms. Other popular podcasts include “Science Vs” and “Short Wave.”

Get out to those free lectures!

At a revered institution such as UC Berkeley, experts across many niche disciplines come to campus on a daily basis to talk about their life’s work. These lectures are usually free! Most of the time, you just have to know where to look and when to show up. Make sure to search through department website calendars for event listings, or reach out to your professors and see if they have a colleague coming into town for a lecture.

All in all, there are a ton of free, easy ways to get started on bettering your scientific literacy. We hope that this article has given you a couple of ideas and helps you take that first step! You never know when that next article you stumble upon, or that next book you pick up, might come in handy.

Contact Pariswi Tewari at [email protected].