Microbiology literacy knowledge framework

"Microbiology literacy needs to become part of the world citizen job description." - Ken Timmis

Microbes and their activities have pervasive, remarkably profound and generally positive effects on the functioning, and thus health and well-being, of human beings, the whole of the biological world, and indeed the entire surface of the planet and its atmosphere. Collectively, and to a significant extent in partnership with the sun, microbes are the life support system of the biosphere. This necessitates their due consideration in decisions that are taken by individuals and families in everyday life, as well as by individuals and responsible bodies at all levels and stages of community, national and planetary health assessment, planning, and the formulation of pertinent policies. 

However, unlike other subjects having a pervasive impact upon humankind, such as financial affairs, health and transportation, of which there is a widespread understanding, knowledge of relevant microbial activities, how they impact our lives, and how they may be harnessed for the benefit
of humankind – microbiology literacy – is lacking in the general population, and in the subsets thereof that constitute the decision makers. We therefore contend that microbiology literacy in society is indispensable for informed personal decisions, as well as for policy development in government and business, and for knowledgeable input of societal stakeholders in such policymaking. Microbiology literacy needs to become part of the world citizen job description

To facilitate the attainment of microbiology literacy in society, through its incorporation into education curricula, we propose here a basic teaching concept and format that are adaptable to all ages, from pre-school to high school, and places key microbial activities in the contexts of how they affect our everyday lives, of relevant Grand Challenges facing humanity and planet Earth, and of sustainability and Sustainable Development

It is essential that the microbial world, in all its amazing, inherent, but microscopic beauty, transits from abstraction to pictorial perception and substance and takes up its rightful position in the human psyche.

Ken Timmis et al have outlined the steps we need to take in The urgent need for microbiology literacy in society published in the journal Environmental Microbiology.  The article is freely available below and pdf translations will be added as they are received. 

The urgent need for microbiology literacy in society

Environmental Microbiology (2019)21(5), 1513–1528

Available to read via this link.

Visualizing the invisible

Microbial Biotechnology (2020)13(4), 844-887

Available to read via this link.

Visualising the invisible (in other languages)

Translations of this article will be published here as we receive them.


Ken Timmis
Microbiology literacy needs to become part of the world citizen job description.

Ken Timmis

Editor in Chief EMI, MBT, EMIIR