Founded in 1991, the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy (ICASL) has worked with a wide array of scholars and institutions throughout the world to facilitate and coordinate the measurement and advancement of scientific literacy. The International Center coordinates and supervises national studies of scientific literacy in the United States and collaborates with other countries in the design and implementation of national surveys in those countries. The ICASL holds an archive of survey data concerning the public understanding of science and will continue to work with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) to share and disseminate relevant data and results.
Over the last three decades, Jon D. Miller, the Director of the ICASL, has directed numerous studies of scientific literacy and public understanding of science and technology in the United States and other countries. Professor Miller’s work and the activities of the ICASL have followed two separate, but linked, streams of data collection and analysis. Beginning in 1979, Jon Miller and Ken Prewitt designed and launched a renewed set of national surveys to provide substantive input to the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators reports. Miller continued to direct this series through 2000 with support from the National Science Foundation. Since 2000, this time series has been updated through additional NSF grants from informal science education and through other non-government sources. A cooperative agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) supported the continuation of this time series through 2020. An integrated data file beginning with the National Association of Science Writers baseline 1957 study is being constructed and will be released through ICPSR in late 2022. Beginning in 1988, Miller – in collaboration with Geoffrey Thomas and John Durant from Oxford University – developed a set of knowledge items that have become the core of a continuing measure of civic scientific literacy. These items have been used in more than 40 countries and will be continued under the cooperative agreement with NASA. This web site includes bibliographic references and related documentation about the construction and use of the Civic Scientific Literacy (CSL) Index.
Parallel to this long time series of measures of American adults and some cross-national comparisons, Miller founded and directed the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY). Funded by the National Science Foundation, the LSAY selected a national sample of 7th grade and 10th grade students in public schools throughout the nation and continues to follow the same students. The LSAY includes extensive measures of in-school, family, and community (informal) learning during the secondary schooling years and is able to link these early experiences to subsequent career choices and related life course outcome. The data from the LSAY are deposited in the ICPSR and secondary users have produced 40 dissertations and more than 200 refereed articles from this data resource (see www.lsay.org for more details).
The NSF declined to continue funding the LSAY after the students reached 40 years of age, but the National Institute on Aging (NIA) provided a five-year award to sustain the original cohorts. NASA has provided additional support through its cooperative agreement with the University of Michigan. In recognition that we are now studying mid-life, the name of the study has been changed to the Longitudinal Study of American Life (LSAL). The full 33-year LSAY-LSAL data file will be available from the ICPSR in late 2022.
The same measure of civic scientific literacy has been used periodically in the LSAY and the LSAL, providing a unique opportunity to examine the development of CSL during the first 40 years of life. The longitudinal nature of these studies makes possible an examination of the factors associated with sustained CSL during mid-life. The International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy was created to provide a forum for the discussion of the conceptualization and measurement of scientific literacy and to encourage sharing and intellectual discussions among scholars in this field. Over the decades, the ICASL has hosted two international conferences in the United States and co-sponsored international meetings in Britain, China, and Japan. Professor Miller and ICASL continue to work closely with other scholars in developed and developing countries.
We hope that this web site can continue to serve as a forum for the electronic discussion of the issues and ideas associated with scientific literacy. We are exploring the establishment of a periodic webinar series to foster a continuing discussion of scientific literacy. We welcome your suggestions about ways to make this conversation more productive.
Jon D. Miller