scientific literacy

As a science communicator, educator and producer, I was working on all these great science initiatives, but I was curious to find out what impact they were having. The teacher in me wanted to know what people were learning. So, I decided to do a PhD at the University of New South Wales to research and measure the impacts of both formal and informal science education and communication on people’s scientific literacy as well as their understanding, attitudes and perspectives of science.


In the first year of my PhD, I did a pilot study. I used tested and validated questionnaires to measure people’s scientific literacy before and after a science event.  Even though my results were interesting, I wasn’t convinced that a questionnaire was giving me the information I wanted.  I didn’t want to know what people thought they knew or learnt — I wanted to measure what they actually knew or learnt. I felt questionnaires didn’t match the same rigour expected in science research.


So, I developed a new evaluation tool (a digital game) designed to accurately measure scientific literacy independent of what people say they think they know. Rather, it’s designed to measure exactly what they do know about the nature of science, which — to some extent arguably — is at the heart of scientific literacy. It uses concept maps to measure changes in participants’ cognitive structure.


The novel thing with this tool is the algorithm I developed that automatically assesses and scores concept maps, making using this tool faster and easier than traditional questionnaires.


I’m currently in the midst of testing and validating my new tool, which I hope I can then use it to achieve the main objective of my research – to measure the effectiveness of science communication and education in achieving learning and affective outcomes.


On the side, I co-developed (and teach) a new online evidence-based science communication course, The Science of Science Communication. I am also an education editor for a high level, international academic journal—Astrobiology (impact factor 3.768)—for which I review education-related articles to ensure the journal publishes only the highest quality research.

Publications & Conference Proceedings



Kingsley, I., Oliver C.A., Slavich E. (2019). Hidden in the figures: what students are telling us about the effectiveness of astrobiology outreach. Astrobiology. Volume 19, Issue 9.

Oliver, C.A., Fergusson, J., Kingsley, I., Oliver, J., Mahony, P., and Browne, C. (2015).  The Mars Lab: Connecting authentic science with the classroom. SCAN. Volume 34, Issue 1.



Kingsley, I., Oliver C.A., and Van Kranendonk M. (2018). Questioning assumptions: The evidence gap in science communication. Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference 2018 (April). Dunedin, New Zealand.


Kingsley, I., Oliver C.A., and Van Kranendonk M. (2017). A new tool to assess scientific literacy. Open Learning Conference 2017 (November). Sydney, Australia.

Kingsley, I., Oliver C.A., and Van Kranendonk M. (2017). A new tool to assess scientific literacy in an astrobiology course. Australian Space Research Conference 2017 (November). Sydney, Australia.

Kingsley, I., Oliver C.A., and Van Kranendonk M. (2017). A new instrument to assess scientific literacy for space outreach. International Astronautical Congress 2017 (September). Adelaide, Australia.


Kingsley, I., Oliver C.A., and Van Kranendonk M. (2017). Space science outreach – are we decreasing public understanding? International Astronautical Congress 2017 (September). Adelaide, Australia.

Kingsley, I., Oliver C.A., and Van Kranendonk M. (2017). Does the way we communicate astrobiology decrease public understanding of astrobiology? Astrobiology Science Conference 2017 (April). Arizona, USA


Kingsley, I., Oliver, C. and Van Kranendonk, M. (2017). Do science events change how people see science?  Australian Science Communicators Conference 2017 (February). Adelaide, Australia


Kingsley, I., Fergusson, J. and Oliver, C. (2016). What it’s like to be a scientist: engaging students in authentic inquiry-based astrobiology experiences.  Australasian Astrobiology Conference 2016 (July). Perth, Australia.

Kingsley, I. and Browne, C. (2014). Using the Mars Lab and Project Based Learning to deliver authentic science experiences.  Australian Space Research Conference 2014 (September). Adelaide, Australia.