Sense about Science has created a free education resource to meet the UK curriculum requirement (introduced in 2006) that secondary school children must be taught “how uncertainties in scientific knowledge and scientific ideas change over time and the role of the scientific community in validating these changes.” From the Sense about Science announcement:
“Whatever reservations have been raised since the launch of the new science curriculum, for the first time there is a space to explore how science works, what’s special about scientific information versus other information and how knowledge is generated. In the resource, leading journal editors Philip Campbell (Nature) and Andrew Sugden (Science) talk directly about peer review, the system used to decide which research is published in a scientific journal bringing it into the scientific record, sharing their every day experiences. Scientists, both as referees and researchers, give their views on peer review and there is also discussion about controversies in science – with over 1 million research papers published annually, can quality be controlled? Can fraud, like the Korean cloning scandal, be avoided?
The lesson plans cover a range of abilities from Key Stage 4 pupils (age roughly 13-16) up to A-level (age roughly 16-18). These include:
Roleplay: an exercise where pupils play the different roles of researcher, editor and reviewer, experiencing the different stages that a piece of research must pass through in order to be published.
Science in the media: a look at how science stories are reported in the news using real-life examples such as mobile phones and cancer, cloning, and the HPV vaccine. Students are encouraged to question the nature of the research behind the story, identify who carried it out and most importantly, ask whether it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The process and its challenges: intended for advanced students, this exercise looks at the limitations of peer review. Students learn about real-life cases such as the scandal surrounding Korean cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk, and learn what role peer review has to play in these events.
Feel free to use the resources with your pupils or pass on the details to those who might like to use them. There is also a link on the website to leave feedback so improvements can be made over time.”