We are largely ignorant. At least, there are many more things we are ignorant of than knowledgeable of. Yet, the common perception of ignorance as a negative trait has left it rather unloved in debates around making knowledge public, including science communication in its various guises. However, ignorance is a complex and essential part of science; it performs a number of legitimate roles, and is performed in a range of legitimate ways within science. In this paper, I argue that it is vital to understand when ignorance is an appropriate, legitimate part of the scientific process, and when ignorance is misused or abused in science. I argue that understanding ignorance is a central aspect of public understanding of science, especially in terms critical science literacy. Critical science literacy argues that more than simply an understanding of scientific facts and processes, a key component of what scientific literacy should aim for is an understanding of the tacit knowledge of science. I present a typology of ignorance and argue that fostering a greater public understanding of ignorance is a rarely acknowledged, yet essential, aspect of making science public, and that it is a challenge that those engaged in and committed to better public understanding of science should take very seriously.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.