Earth, Our Environment - Class Notes
A Classification of Scientific Knowledge*
By its nature, science is a work in progress. As you might expect, there are different classifications of scientific knowledge and some scientific rules are more "reliable" than others. Arranged in order of increasing reliability, a classification of the types of scientific knowledge is:
- Frontier Science - is information from ongoing research efforts. Such information is often contained in the proceedings from scientific meetings or conferences, and is usually the topic of discussion in those meetings.
- Primary Scientific Literature - is the next stage of scientific knowledge. Here we are discussing the material contained in the scientific journals most often published by organizations within the scientific community. This research has usually been through at least one level of peer review and is more reliable than the Frontier knowledge.
- Secondary Scientific Literature - consists of review articles and monographs that sift and synthesize the primary literature. The construction of these reviews contains another level of peer review where each scientific study is viewed in light of other recent efforts and placed in a perspective of its importance and generality.
- Textbook Science - is the result of more sifting of the research information and the secondary literature. Generally, this is the most reliable of scientific knowledge, provided the author of the text was fair and impartial in the presentation of the material.
* After: Bauer, H. H., "Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, The University of Illinois Press, 1992.
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Prepared by: Charles J. Ammon