Resisting Scientific Misinformation

Andy Zucker was a senior scientist at the Concord Consortium. Penny Noyce served on the Concord Consortium’s Board of Directors.

Fake news

Andy Zucker and Penny Noyce, both formerly associated with the Concord Consortium for many years, created a free one-week curriculum unit for grades 6-12 called Resisting Scientific Misinformation. The unit includes four short videos especially produced by PBS NOVA staff at WGBH in Boston.

Andy and Penny will be showing the videos and discussing the unit at this year’s National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) conference in Boston. One presentation will be on Saturday, April 4, at 11 a.m. and the other will be at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 5.

The Science Teacher recently published a feature article about the curriculum unit. The article is open-access: anyone can read it or download it. Similarly, the curriculum materials are also available for anyone to download from Penny’s Tumblehome Books website. To date there have been about 3,000 downloads.

Unfortunately, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)—which certainly has many strengths—says nothing about resisting scientific misinformation, or how to help students locate reliable sources of information, or how to investigate a dubious “scientific” claim. Nor does the NGSS ask teachers to teach about scientific institutions, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is a source of accurate information about vaccine safety, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which synthesizes vast amounts of information and publishes reports for policymakers and the public. The NGSS also has nothing to say about how science is used in making public policy, or a number of other important topics.

With the goal of improving the NGSS, Andy and Penny recently published a white paper called Opportunities to Improve the Next Generation Science Standards. That paper and an accompanying blog are online at One of the architects of the NGSS, Cary Sneider, wrote, “This is a nicely crafted article that should definitely be published.” The white paper suggests that national, state, and local science education standards need to be improved in the near future, not a decade or more from now.