Understanding Science -- a web project of the UC Museum of Paleontology

Summary of progress on the Understanding Science project — October 1, 2007

Advisory Board meetings: The Teacher Advisory Board and Project Advisory Board met over the summer and continue to be in constant email with the project team. As the Boards represent those who practice science across multiple disciplines, teach about science (K-16), professionally assist those preparing to teach (science education specialists), professionally think about science (philosophers), and professionally think about how people think (cognitive psychologists), their input has been critical. They have provided guidance by reviewing ALL of the content that we have generated thus far (some more than once), giving advice for exemplars, case studies, and side trips, and helping us to create a new flowchart that portrays how science really works. Our common goal is to provide a product that is useful for both the formal and informal science education communities, as well as the interested general public.

Phase I: Effectively describing how science works
We have completed writing the first eight sections of content that cover:
Science in a nutshell — In a single screen, summarizes the main points of the site, provides links to major content sections
What is science? — Introduces science as not only a body of knowledge, but as a process of discovery and verification through testing; describes basic characteristics of science; outlines the sorts of questions that cannot be addressed by science
How science works — Contrasts THE scientific method with a more realistic, complex, nonlinear process, introduces the flow chart and describes its elements, compares hypotheses and theories
The core of science: Relating evidence and ideas — Explains the logic behind scientific arguments and how ideas are supported or contradicted by evidence
Science as a human and community endeavor — Emphasizes that science is done by all sorts of different people, describes the function of the scientific community and the culture of science (values, norms, etc.)
How the broader society influences science — Describes how and why science is intertwined with the societies that participate in it
What has science done for you lately? — Describes different ways that scientific knowledge improves our lives
A scientific approach to life: A science toolkit — Mainly focuses on evaluating scientific messages that reach us through the popular media, ads, politics, etc.

In addition, we have begun to develop a series of Exemplars (stories of science in action) and Research profiles (vignettes on modern scientists emphasizing the nature and process of science), with examples cross-referenced to the rest of the site. We have also identified seven new sections that will enhance the quality of the site and increase audience interest:
Scientists on science: In their own words — Quotes on the nature of science
What's next? — What are the burning questions in science today? What real scientific controversies are going on right now?
Misconceptions about science — Corrects common misconceptions
Science FAQs
Amateur Hall of Fame
Gallery of Scientists
The Science Time Machine
— an interactive in which people can roll back the clock and find out what was going on in science and the society/culture in which it operated X number of years ago.

Phase II: Incorporating the content into our teaching
The first draft of a conceptual framework for K-16 that articulates the learning objectives for the nature and process of science is currently being reviewed. This framework builds on the AAAS Atlas, the National Science Standards, Benchmarks, etc. and we have begun to identify strategies and teaching resources that will be appropriate for all grade spans. We are working closely with the Visionlearning project, as they are developing an online undergraduate course on the process of science. We are actively involved in one anotherís projects to assure that our efforts are integrated and complimentary.

The Roll Out and Dissemination
We are aiming for an October 2008 roll out so that we can promote the new resources at professional meetings and coordinate efforts with COPUS and the Year of Science 2009.