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Integrating Policy and Decision Making into Undergraduate Science Education

Abstract

"There are many important messages and frameworks for understanding the importance of integrating policy and decision making into undergraduate science education. First, the need for and impact of science and solid scientific evidence can be found in virtually all aspects of life. Second, science can and should inform policy and decision making to a much greater extent than is currently the case. Third, the science that we teach and ask our students to learn can be infused with real-life examples of policy issues that can help many more students, whether they plan to go on to careers in science or not, to understand science in context. Fourth, although [many] policies have failed because they have not been infused with scientific and technological information and perspective, the majority of people who are elected or appointed as policy makers have taken college-level science courses. However, too many of them have not been prepared adequately to deal with the implications of science in policy and decision making. Even those policy makers who may be steeped in the content of a particular science discipline (i.e., science majors) may not have been asked to understand or explore deeply the processes, nature, and limits of science in decision making. It is clear that most students who graduate from college will not enter the public policy arena as part of their careers. Still, too many of them leave school without making the connections about how scientific and technological concepts relate to a myriad of issues that affect their daily lives. These include their health and the wellbeing of themselves and their families, and their roles and responsibilities as citizens of their local community, their nation, and an increasingly interconnected, interdependent, and scientifically driven world. Because the majority of undergraduates do not enroll in science courses beyond the introductory level, infusing these kinds of ideas and perspectives into those courses is especially important."

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