Popular Science

Everything Americans know about science in seven graphs

See how the country stacked up in a recent National Science Foundation quiz.

A young female scientist working in a lab

Pencils down!

Every two years, a couple thousand lucky Americans get to take a science quiz. The National Science Foundation surveys the representative sample to see how much they (and, by extension, we) all understand about science and technology. And it’s not just for fun. The NSF has a vested interest in figuring out what Americans know, think, and understand about the scientific world so they can construct policies in line with our collective reasoning. So once it's collected, this survey data gets compiled and put it into one big report.

Of course, no survey can perfectly capture how well. A few questions can’t distill that kind of information; scientific literacy is less about memorizing specific facts than it is understanding how to interpret evidence. But these tests can help us get a snapshot of what Americans know, and how our understanding is changing.

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