Table 7-10
Correct answers to scientific process questions: Selected years, 1999–2010
(Percent)
 
Question 1999
(n = 1,882)
2001
(n = 1,574)
2004
(n = 2,025)
2006
(n = 1,864)
2008
(n = 2,021)
2010
(n = 1,454)
 
Understanding of scientific inquiry scalea 32 40 39 41 36 42
             
Components of understanding scientific inquiry scale            
Understanding of probabilityb 64 67 64 69 64 66
Understanding of experimentc 34 40 46 42 38 51
Understanding of scientific studyd 21 26 23 25 23 18
 

aTo be classified as understanding scientific inquiry, survey respondent had to (1) answer correctly the two probability questions stated in footnote b and (2) either provide "theory-testing" response to open-ended question about what it means to study something scientifically (see footnote d) or correct response to open-ended question about experiment, i.e., explain why it is better to test a drug using a control group (see footnote c).
bTo be classified as understanding probability, survey respondent had to answer correctly A doctor tells a couple that their genetic makeup means that they've got one in four chances of having a child with an inherited illness. (1) Does this mean that if their first child has the illness, the next three will not have the illness? (No); and (2) Does this mean that each of the couple's children will have the same risk of suffering from the illness? (Yes).
cTo be classified as understanding experiment, survey respondent had to answer correctly (1) Two scientists want to know if a certain drug is effective against high blood pressure. The first scientist wants to give the drug to 1,000 people with high blood pressure and see how many of them experience lower blood pressure levels. The second scientist wants to give the drug to 500 people with high blood pressure and not give the drug to another 500 people with high blood pressure, and see how many in both groups experience lower blood pressure levels. Which is the better way to test this drug? and (2) Why is it better to test the drug this way? (The second way because a control group is used for comparison.)
dTo be classified as understanding scientific study, survey respondent had to answer correctly (1) When you read news stories, you see certain sets of words and terms. We are interested in how many people recognize certain kinds of terms. First, some articles refer to the results of a scientific study. When you read or hear the term scientific study, do you have a clear understanding of what it means, a general sense of what it means, or little understanding of what it means? and (2) (If "clear understanding" or "general sense" response) In your own words, could you tell me what it means to study something scientifically? (Formulation of theories/test hypothesis, experiments/control group, or rigorous/systematic comparison.)

NOTES: Data reflect percentage giving a correct response to each concept. "Don't know" responses and refusals to respond counted as incorrect and not shown. See appendix table 7-13 for more detail on probability questions and for years prior to 1999.

SOURCES: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology (1999, 2001); University of Michigan, Survey of Consumer Attitudes (2004); and University of Chicago, National Opinion Research Center, General Social Survey (2006, 2008, 2010).

Science and Engineering Indicators 2012