Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Brent McCusker

Committee Co-Chair

Robert Behling

Committee Member

Robert Hanham

Committee Member

Phil O'Keefe

Committee Member

Bradley Wilson


This dissertation discusses the complex social relations that link citizen science, scientific literacy, and the dissemination of information to the public. Scientific information is not produced in value-neutral settings by people removed from their social context. Instead, science is a social pursuit and the scientist's social context is embedded in the knowledge produced. Additionally, the dissemination of this information via numerous media outlets is filtered through institutional lenses and subject to journalistic norms. As a result, the general public must be able to recognize the inherent biases in this information. Yet, the rates of scientific literacy in the U.S. are quite low, which suggests that people may not be capable of fully understanding the biases present. Furthermore, people tend to seek out sources that reinforce their values and personal perspectives, thus reinforcing their own biases. Improving scientific literacy allows people to see past these biases and translate media narratives in order to comprehend the facts and evidence presented to them. Citizen science is both an epistemological tool used by scientists to collect and interpret scientific data and a means to improve the scientific literacy of participants. Citizen science programs have the ability to generate real knowledge and improve the critical thinking skills necessary for the general public to interpret scientific information.