So You Want to Share Your Science …. Connecting to the World of Informal Science Learning

So You Want to Share Your Science …. Connecting to the World of Informal Science Learning Abstract Scientists can reap personal rewards through collaborations with science and natural history museums, zoos, botanical gardens, aquaria, parks, and nature preserves, and, while doing so, help to advance science literacy and broaden participation in the natural sciences. Beyond volunteer opportunities, which allow scientists to contribute their knowledge and passion within the context of existing programs and activities, there are also opportunities for scientists to bring their knowledge and resources to the design and implementation of new learning experiences for visitors to these informal science learning organizations (ISLOs). Well-designed education outreach plans that leverage the expertise and broad audiences of ISLOs can also enhance the prospects of research grant proposals made to agencies such as National Science Foundation, which encourage researchers to pay careful attention to the broader impacts of their research as well as its intellectual merit. Few scientists, however, have had the opportunity to become familiar with the pedagogy and design of informal or “free-choice” science learning, and fewer still know how to go about the process of collaborating with ISLOs in developing and implementing effective programs, exhibits, and other learning experiences. This article, written by an experienced science museum professional, provides guidance for individual scientists and research groups interested in pursuing effective education outreach collaborations with science museums and other ISLOs. When prospective partners begin discussions early in the proposal development process, they increase the likelihood of successful outcomes in funding, implementation, and impact. A strategic planning worksheet is provided, along with a carefully-selected set of further resources to guide the design and planning of informal science learning experiences. Introduction “Have I made my case? Will our paper be accepted? Who will read it? What is the impact factor? Etc ….” Hold on; let us step back for a moment from the pressures of career science. Some of you may remember the days when just getting to participate in the realm of scientific discovery and exploration was a joy and a privilege; something you felt almost guilty about being paid to do, because you loved it, were inspired, and wanted to make a difference. Now you spend your days negotiating permits, following protocols, attending meetings, writing grants, advising students, and always more paperwork …. There is a cure for this. It is to share your science; go back to your roots and discover ways to engage others in the wonder and fascination that first lured you into living, thinking, and doing science. First, you may need to shake off some of the seriousness of your scholarly demeanor, shed layers of technical jargon that have entwined you, lay aside your political agenda, and tunnel back to the state of wonder and joy that first got you started on this journey. (Already you are noticing the relative informality of this article, tucked within the volume’s more scholarly contributions.) Now, unencumbered, what insights can you share with the not-yet-initiated: children, families, adventurers, sight-seers, students? How best can you share them? And, again, why bother? Because doing so may help you revive that lively sense of mission, curiosity, and fun that was once at the core of your own impetus for gaining insight into the scientific field that you now call your own. I work in a science museum, and I see this happen all the time. We partner with university research centers and labs, and we give graduate students and post-doctoral fellows opportunities to come learn how to share their science with the families, school kids, couples, and tourists who browse the spaces of our giant halls of discovery and play. We coach our scientist partners in using and designing hands-on minds-on activities related to their research, and in making short films and animations. We challenge college professors—accustomed to lecture halls and technical conference presentations—to come into our public presentation spaces and tell stories enlivened with big beautiful pictures and live hands-on demonstrations, and we workshop them through the steps of transformation from lecturer to inspirer (Fig. 1). The results can be profoundly energizing and uplifting. Here are some lightly-edited excerpts from comments we have recently captured on film from our graduate student volunteers (MOS 2017): In the lab you can get sort of very “in your head” about what you're working on, you're so familiar with it. And then you go and talk to people, and they're like, “wow, that's so cool!” And so, especially in graduate school, when things can be very, you know—a lot of things don't work, and you can get very sort of pessimistic and cynical—it's a lot of fun to come and talk to a much broader audience about them. When you're interacting with these children, and you just see something click, and then their face lights up, and they start explaining to you what is going on - that's really like the coolest moment … for that moment, they're as into it as you are (Fig. 2). I think an undervalued part of our jobs as scientists is being able to advocate for what we do, and this activity of being able to reach out and connect with the general public and get them excited about science is a really important part of being able to justify the work we do. Fig. 1 View largeDownload slide Howard University Professor Steven L. Richardson shares his passion for research with Museum of Science visitors. Fig. 1 View largeDownload slide Howard University Professor Steven L. Richardson shares his passion for research with Museum of Science visitors. Fig. 2 View largeDownload slide MIT Ph.D. candidate Eric Bersin delights youngsters at the Boston Museum of Science with a diamond magnetometer he and his colleagues hauled in from the lab. Fig. 2 View largeDownload slide MIT Ph.D. candidate Eric Bersin delights youngsters at the Boston Museum of Science with a diamond magnetometer he and his colleagues hauled in from the lab. A similar but more activist sentiment was captured in the program description of a roundtable held at the 2018 meeting of the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology this last January: “Many students go into science not just because of the beauty of science itself, but because they want to change the world, through science communication, education, or policy” (SICB 2018). In this spirit, national organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science have become more vocal in recent years, urging scientists to develop public engagement and science communication skills, especially in a political climate generally perceived as increasingly hostile to evidence-based policy-making. This article does not focus on achieving political ends; rather, it is about seizing opportunities to engage broader constituencies in the spirit of investigation, discovery, knowledge-sharing, and rational discourse embodied by science, and to assist in opening pathways for further exploration and participation. Sharing science: Where to begin? One good way to begin is to think about what audiences you or your group might want to reach, where they can be found, what they might find especially intriguing about your field, and how you might engage them by providing opportunities to see, touch, explore, ask questions, test answers, and make new connections. The agenda here is not about how much knowledge you can impart, but how deeply you can awaken in those around you those qualities of curiosity, inquiry, and enthusiasm that may prompt them to continue exploring on their own. This is the pedagogy of inquiry-based learning, and it is the hallmark of progressive classrooms and the core of the informal science learning industry—the professionals who design and provide museum programs and exhibits, citizen science and ranger interpretive programs, aquarium adventures, after-school nature clubs, and other out-of-classroom education experiences. In fact, a good way for scientists to cultivate broader communication skills and reach a larger audience, is to get involved with these types of informal science learning organizations (ISLOs), where sharing knowledge, inquiry, and insight into the natural world is core to their mission. ISLOs are likely to host volunteer opportunities and relevant collections, plus the spaces and facilities for accommodating visitors. They are already on the map as destinations for education- and adventure-loving people; they bring in science-attentive audiences; and many of them have staff who can help researchers develop effective means of engaging visitors. So, if your time for outreach is limited, ISLOs can help you leverage your efforts. A brief introduction to the world of informal science learning It is considered informal because it is not required, subscribes to no one set of standards, involves no exams or degrees, and usually happens outside the classroom. Another moniker for it is “free choice learning” (Falk 2002), because participation is purely voluntary: If it is not interesting, engaging, or fun, people will simply walk out the door. So, ISLOs employ professionals skilled at designing, implementing, and evaluating these experiences to ensure that people will want to keep having them. They seem to be doing a very good job. The Association of Science-Technology Centers has over 650 members operating in 47 countries, and based on 2016 survey data, estimates 120 million annual visits worldwide and 70 million in the USA alone (ASTC 2017). This influx of humanity is a bonanza for scientists wanting to get involved in outreach; it is far greater than the numbers who can be attracted to campus or institute venues. But their very popularity can limit the operational flexibility of larger science centers, museums, zoos, and aquaria. They are institutions with complex infrastructures. They schedule exhibits and programs, courses and visits, months and sometimes years in advance. Staff time is strictly allocated and budgets are limited. Few people realize that most US museums are not publicly-supported as are the Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington, D.C.; instead, they must make their own way on admission tickets and parking fees, grants and donations, gifts and tax breaks. This has implications that will be addressed a bit later. The first step for the scientist is to locate potential allies and partners. Scan your community and neighboring communities; find out what organizations are engaged in providing enrichment experiences for adults and youth; read their websites, make a visit. If you are a person who works with animals, try parks, zoos, refuges, aquaria, science, and natural history museums. If you are a person who works with plants, check out botanical gardens, horticultural societies, arboretums, parks, science, and natural history museums. Do they welcome local community members? Do they attract diverse visitors? Find out if they have collections relevant to your research, in-house scientists or curators, or educational programs that might welcome new ideas and resources. Find a person you can talk with who manages education programs, exhibit planning, or outreach; discuss the organization’s needs and goals. These are the people to whom you may take your ideas, make your initial pitch—get a dose of reality perhaps—then come back with a revised approach. The reality is that they, like you, have limited bandwidth, budget, and resources, and often other very real constraints; like visitor safety, animal welfare, employment law; it is helpful to understand what some of these are. Smaller organizations can sometimes be more flexible. Perhaps your project can be slipped right into a schedule of programs being curated for next spring; perhaps there is a volunteer opportunity for someone with your talents and expertise. You may need to reimagine and reconfigure to find the best match for all concerned. When is greater strategic collaboration required? Sometimes, just becoming a regular volunteer is what it takes to find a satisfying outlet for your interest in sharing science with others. You may be required to go through some training and supervision to get certified to work with visitors. However, other times, it may be the case that you want to contribute something new about your work, your research, or your field; perhaps by adding a new perspective, program, or activity in addition to what is already being offered onsite. Small ISLOs may have more flexibility to do this, but also fewer resources to spare. In larger ISLOs, as in larger universities, the wheels grind more slowly. In these cases, additional consultation, planning, and development will be required; even more so if the partnership involves formal contractual arrangements, as in large research center—science museum collaborations, or if the collaboration is being written into a grant proposal as a deliverable of federal research award. While this approach requires more up-front effort, it can also help you and your colleagues realize a public engagement initiative with much greater impact than you would have been able to achieve on your own. In fact, one big incentive for scientists to take steps toward getting involved in outreach comes in the form of guidance from science-funding organizations, who sometimes counsel applicants to include components of public outreach in their research programs. The National Science Foundation has its Broader Impacts Criterion alongside its Intellectual Merit Criterion, and this is designed to motivate applicants to use time and resources allocated from their award to address connections between research, practice, and societal impact (NSF 2018). Many NSF applicants and awardees—knowing that they do not necessarily have the confidence, skills, audiences, or venues suitable for making a significant impact on their own—look to ISLOs to help them accomplish these goals (Alpert 2009, 2013). The NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Informal Science (CAISE) provides advice, practical tools, and encouragement. (see the Resource section further below.) As a museum professional, I welcome the opportunity to bring scientists into the museum to interact face-to-face with our guests. Early-career researchers tend to be considerably more diverse than their more senior mentors, and we find it thrilling to see youngsters from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds light up when they get to interact with role models who look like not-much-older versions of themselves. Scientists bring authenticity to our programs, and they help us introduce state-of-the-art science and technology to our constituencies. We have learned that we need to allocate significant time and resources to cultivate these partnerships; to understand the research well-enough to help devise ways to share it, and to give the scientists and their students the training and supervised practical experience they need to feel confident and successful working with visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Advice to scientists regarding ISLO collaborations Because science museums get so many requests from researchers to help them pursue the broader impacts portions of their research projects, I wrote a guide for science museum professionals several years ago, providing advice on ways to develop effective partnerships with university-based researchers and research centers (Alpert 2013). These days, I spend a considerable amount of time in universities, working with researchers on their professional and public communication skills, and I have learned that they often would like guidance about initiating effective collaborations with science museums and other ISLOs. The first lesson concerns last-minute calls. Science museum managers often receive last-minute calls or emails from researchers who are about to submit a proposal to a funding agency such as the National Science Foundation. These callers suggest that as part of their federally-funded research they will provide to the science museum a great set of evening lectures, or perhaps an exhibit to be designed by their graduate students in connection with their proposed research. Typically, the university caller requests a pdf sent on museum letterhead, confirming commitment to the proposed collaboration. The request may be urgent, as the letter needs to be included in the proposal submission which may be due in only a few days; the details to be worked out later. Yet, by this stage in the proposal development process, the entire budget has almost certainly already been allocated. There has likely been little discussion on what form of outreach might be best suited to the topic or to the intended audiences, and no consultation with the proposed ISLO collaborator. As I advise my science museum colleagues, such a request needs to be politely but firmly turned down, with an invitation to make contact again several months ahead of the next proposal due date. Here are a few of the warning flags this approach raises in the mind of the ISLO professional: It is indicative of last-minute planning, and assumes either that public engagement projects are trivial to carry out, or that the museum already has plenty of funding, resources and staff on hand to do the work, which is almost never the case. In the absence of a budget and a well-thought-out evidence-based plan, savvy reviewers may doubt serious commitment. Even if the proposal is funded, neither partner will have much incentive to follow through on the vaguely-stated intent, especially in the midst of other more pressing priorities. This just-in-time approach does not bode well for future collaboration. It tends to produce token efforts, perhaps in time for critical grant reporting periods. Lectures and talks have their place in informal science learning settings. Even so, most university-style talks and Powerpoint presentations need considerable transformation before they are ready for prime-time in free-choice learning venues, where the audience will walk away if not engaged, or if the slides are crammed with graphs and technical information too small to see. Had the researchers proposed introductory discussions earlier with ISLO management and staff, there could have been brainstorming and collaboration toward crafting more welcoming, interactive, and effective audience engagement experiences. The conception, design, and production of most science museum exhibits is a complex, team-based craft of professionals guided by accepted standards in education, design, spatial integration, accessibility, and safety; with adherence to strict scheduling for prototyping, evaluation, and revision; and a commitment to maintenance. It is not a job for graduate students. However, with appropriate staff support, many museums can provide graduate students with training in science communication and public engagement, and work with them to develop smaller, simpler hands-on activities for visitors and other forms of face-to-face engagement. The last-minute phone call signals a lost opportunity to benefit both the research enterprise and the broader community, the principal investigator and the students, and the cause of science literacy in general. But it does not have to be this way. Gradually, researchers and informal science educators are learning how to come together to brainstorm and plan their collaborations more effectively and successfully. Collaboration through strategic planning With inspiration, complementary expertise, and advance planning, many researchers and ISLO professionals have initiated very successful research center—science museum collaborations, some lasting for many years. I manage one that has been ongoing since 2001, funded by successive NSF research center grants and renewals (NSF 0117795, 0646094, 1231319). This collaboration has produced museum programs and presentations, videos, podcasts, and television news, science theater and special events reaching millions of people. It has also provided science communication training for hundreds of university students. But a successful collaboration need not be so grand in scale. What counts most is that the collaborators understand each other, discuss the options in advance, find the right fit for their respective interests, resources, and prospective audiences, agree on a plan of action, and set an appropriate budget. In smaller scale collaborations—for instance, those involving a single research lab and a local ISLO or a single department of a larger ISLO—these planning activities may be easily accomplished in the space of several meetings, culminating in a simple letter of agreement. Larger-scale collaborations—such as those involving large research centers, multiple organizations, and ambitious projects to be implemented across several years—are more likely to succeed if certain planning steps are undertaken in advance. We recommend that each prospective collaboration partner conducts a preliminary strategic assessment that lays the groundwork for building successful collaborations. For the ISLO partner, this includes: identifying high priority topic areas for exhibit and program enrichment; especially those that would benefit from collaborations with university researchers and students; and providing infrastructure for vetting and managing collaborations. This may include designating a point person and setting up in-house procedures for internal planning, consultation, evaluating, and budgeting and accounting. For the research partner, it includes: assessing the range of goals for pursuing the collaboration; considering desired outcomes; evaluating available resources or potential external funding; exploring potential partners and their interests and availability; and beginning discussions many months prior to the intended activity or proposal. Translating research Scientists get funding for very specific technical investigations that can sound quite inaccessible to general audiences. The research team may be proposing, for instance, to investigate how rainfall patterns influence fertility variations across sub-populations of a certain ground species. Science communication professionals and museum educators can help scientists tell their story within a broader context that provides additional motivation and relevance; perhaps in this case, the need to better understand the impact of climate change on the emergence of new animal-borne diseases. They might also encourage the researchers to share more personal insights, to highlight the adventures of field work, bring in samples, or develop an interactive activity that allows players to explore the effects of several variables on animal populations and disease. The goal is to balance the what with the why and the what for—to tell a good story and reveal the eye-opening big picture. The hidden benefit for scientists is that these strategies can also be quite useful in helping them communicate effectively with funders, journalists and, perhaps surprisingly, with scientists in other specialties, helping to set the stage for innovative cross-disciplinary research collaborations (Alpert 2013). Forms of engagement Most people think of exhibits when they think of science museums, and yet an exhibit may not be the best approach. Exhibits are expensive, and they take a lot of time to develop, prototype, test, and install. They are also difficult to update as the research advances. Scientists who want to engage more actively with visitors would do well to conceive of it as an opportunity to learn as well as share expertise. By being willing to listen and ask questions, they can join with visitors in exploring broader aspects and societal implications of research, and these conversations can sometimes yield important new perspectives. If the research has controversial elements, tools are available to help researchers working with ISLOs develop public forums on science and technology topics (Bell et al. 2017). Much interpretation of current science occurs in the form of museum exhibit hall presentations and demonstrations, through web and new media, and at special events where researchers and their students can interact and dialogue with visitors, preferably with prior coaching by ISLO staff. These types of activities are easier than exhibits to update and improve as the research progresses and yields new findings. In nature centers and zoos and aquaria, enrichment programs can also take the form of tours and gallery talks, aided by hands-on activities that bring visitors closer to the organisms and environments under study. One of the best uses of grant resources is to provide partial support for one or more ISLO educators who can get to know the research team and their work, and collaborate with them to develop novel programs and activities. The ISLO educators can then deliver those programs and activities on an ongoing basis without taking too much time away from the scientists and their students. This strategy leverages the partnership to achieve even broader impact; many more people will have the opportunity to participate; there may be potential for further dissemination. Budget Try to avoid getting too far along discussing a vision for education and outreach without some grounding in the reality of its cost in relation to the resources available. If funding is limited, aim to do a fabulous job within the available resources; or, see if negotiation or additional fund-raising can produce the necessary resources. University faculty may be accustomed to a culture where time is more flexible and students provide off-the-clock labor. They may underestimate the true cost of the professional expertise involved in developing, testing, and carrying out truly effective informal science learning programs on a regular basis. The bottom line is to design a scope commensurate with the budget, and then execute it very well. Research and evaluation Research and evaluation are increasingly important aspects of informal science learning design, and the field is developing in a more scholarly way, with increased capacity to devise testable research questions, implement stricter protocols, and publish findings. Outreach collaborations do not typically involve formal research studies, but they do require a commitment to at least a literature review and front-end and formative evaluation strategies that can help guide the design, development and remedial modifications of exhibits and programs, workshops, and other kinds of learning activities. While page limits restrict the amount of detail allotted to the education, outreach and other broader-impacts components of research proposals, the plans will be taken more seriously if they (1) reference published material supportive of the approach, (2) include evaluation plans, and (3) mention the qualifications of the design and implementation team. Review panels and program officers are increasingly savvy about distinguishing well-planned, evidence-based strategies from those that merely sound good. They look for measures of impact and other forms of accountability that can be built into the program, as well as the intention to share what is learned through posting of evaluation studies to repositories such as www.informalscience.org. NSF has made available its own Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects (Friedman 2008), and the NISE Network developed a Team-Based Inquiry Guide (Pattison et al. 2014), that helps program developers conduct their own in-house formative evaluations. Keep in mind that surveying, observing, testing, interviewing, and other evaluation protocols conducted with adults and particularly with children (minors 18 and under) may be subject to approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Partners should be prepared to set up a working arrangement with the university’s IRB or that of the ISLO. A Worksheet for Scientists Seeking Collaborations with Informal Science Learning Organizations (Reproduced here with permission from the Museum of Science) What do we want to share with broader audiences? Do we have specific messages to communicate? A new perspective to share? Why do we think it is important to share these ideas/experiences? What motivates us? How might the community benefit? Whom do we most want to reach, and where can we find them? What might we learn from them? Are they likely to already have an interest or connection to this topic? How will we attract and engage them? What unusual experiences might we be able to offer? What is our timeline, and what resources can we bring? What informal science learning organizations might we be able to partner with? e.g., natural history, science, or children's museums; zoos, botanical gardens, aquaria; parks, historic sites, visitor centers; libraries, after-school, community organizations. What programs and activities do they have that we might fit in to? Who can we speak with there? Topics for discussion with a potential ISLO partner Do they already partner with researchers? If so, what is the procedure? How interested are they in our topic area and our ideas for collaboration? What resources, materials, and expertise can we bring to the table? (What special experiences can we offer?) Could they help us develop the content and format in a way that will be successful with their visitors? What additional funding, resources, support will they need? Are they interested in joining a grant proposal with us, and do they have the wherewithal to do that? (e.g., grants management infrastructure, IRB, federal ID, etc.) Can some of our students be involved? What training will they need? What is a reasonable timeline for pursuing next steps? Working together Designate coordinators from each organization. Meet to brainstorm ideas for developing engaging content and format. Check these against practical and operational constraints, time, and resources. If a funding proposal is required, come to agreement on scope and budget. Devise an initial development, evaluation, and implementation plan. Vet with internal and external stakeholders. Set timelines and checkpoints. Keep in touch. Regular communication builds trust and confidence. Resources for scientists interested in partnering with ISLOs Find a science center, museum, zoo, or aquarium at the Association of Science-Technology Center’s web resource: http://www.astc.org/about-astc/about-science-centers/find-a-science-center/ Gain insight into informal science learning pedagogy, strategy, and evaluation at the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science’s introductory page for scientists: http://informalscience.org/projects/scientists-and-public-engagement Consult the Framework for Evaluation Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects, an NSF-sponsored guide: http://www.informalscience.org/framework-evaluating-impacts-informal-science-education-projects Consult the website of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI), an NSF-funded network of individuals and organizations working to build institutional capacity, advance BI, and demonstrate societal benefits: https://broaderimpacts.net. Consult “Public Engagement with Science: a guide to creating conversations among publics and scientists for mutual learning and societal decision-making,” at https://www.mos.org/sites/dev-elvis.mos.org/files/docs/offerings/PES_guide_10_20r_HR.pdf. Look into Portal to the Public, a network of ISLOs that provide training and resources for museum-university partnerships: https://popnet.pacificsciencecenter.org Download printed and electronic material included in the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum Planning & Implementation Guide. The SSW&P is an effective one-day or two half-day workshop used by researcher-ISLO partners to introduce researchers and their students to inquiry-based learning techniques in informal science learning environments. http://www.nisenet.org/catalog/tools_guides/sharing_science_workshop_practicum Share your science; give it a shot Share your science. Learn to do it well. Do it with young people, old people, family members, community, and strangers. Share not just what you have learned, but also how you have learned it, and how it has influenced your way of thinking. Endeavor to show others why you find it fascinating, and what relevance it may have to our lives and to the world we live in. Invite others in to experience a bit of what you do. Encourage them to ask questions; reward them with responses formulated in simple terms, word pictures, and analogies. Be open to their thoughts and ideas and listen well. Such inspiration is priceless. Acknowledgments The author wishes to thank her Museum of Science colleagues Karine Thate, Megan Litwhiler, and Larry Bell; Martha Merson for the impetus to write this piece; and the reviewers for their sound advice. Funding This work was supported by the National Science Foundation [grant numbers 1231319, 1323030, 1555541]. References Alpert CL. 2009 . Broadening and deepening the impact: a theoretical framework for partnerships between science museums and STEM research centres . Social Epistemol 23 : 267 – 81 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Alpert CL. 2009 . The research communication continuum: linking public engagement skills to the advancement of cross-disciplinary research . J Museum Educ 28 : 28 . Alpert CL. 2013 . A guide to building partnerships between science museums and university-based research centers. Museum of Science, Boston: NISE Network. Association of Science Centers (ASTC) . 2017 . Science center statistics from the 2016 ASTC Statistics Survey. (http://www.astc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ASTC_SCStats-2016.pdf) (Accessed January 27, 2018). Falk JH. 2002 . The contribution of free-choice learning to public understanding of science . Interciencia 27 : 62 – 65 . Friedman A. (ed.). 2008 . Framework for evaluating impacts of informal science education projects. (http://www.informalscience.org/framework-evaluating-impacts-informal-science-education-projects) (Accessed March 18, 2018). Bell L , Lowenthal C, Sittenfeld D, Todd D, Pfeifle S, Kunz Kollmann E. 2017. Public Engagement with Science. Museum of Science. (https://www.mos.org/sites/dev-elvis.mos.org/files/docs/offerings/PES_guide_10_20r_HR.pdf) (Accessed March 17, 2018). MOS . 2017 . Video interviews with Center for Integrated Quantum Materials graduate student volunteers at NanoDays 2017. Boston: Museum of Science digital archives. National Science Foundation . 2018 . Broader Impacts: Improving Society. (https://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/special/broaderimpacts/) (Accessed January 29, 2018) Pattison S , Cohn S , Kollmann L. 2014 . Team-based inquiry: a practical guide for using evaluation to improve informal education experiences. 2nd ed. (http://nisenet.org/catalog/team-based-inquiry-guide) (Accessed March 17, 2018). Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology annual meeting program . 2018 , January 3–7, San Francisco (http://www.sicb.org/meetings/2018/spdac.php) (Accessed March 18, 2018). © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved. For permissions please email: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Integrative and Comparative Biology Oxford University Press

So You Want to Share Your Science …. Connecting to the World of Informal Science Learning

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Abstract

Abstract Scientists can reap personal rewards through collaborations with science and natural history museums, zoos, botanical gardens, aquaria, parks, and nature preserves, and, while doing so, help to advance science literacy and broaden participation in the natural sciences. Beyond volunteer opportunities, which allow scientists to contribute their knowledge and passion within the context of existing programs and activities, there are also opportunities for scientists to bring their knowledge and resources to the design and implementation of new learning experiences for visitors to these informal science learning organizations (ISLOs). Well-designed education outreach plans that leverage the expertise and broad audiences of ISLOs can also enhance the prospects of research grant proposals made to agencies such as National Science Foundation, which encourage researchers to pay careful attention to the broader impacts of their research as well as its intellectual merit. Few scientists, however, have had the opportunity to become familiar with the pedagogy and design of informal or “free-choice” science learning, and fewer still know how to go about the process of collaborating with ISLOs in developing and implementing effective programs, exhibits, and other learning experiences. This article, written by an experienced science museum professional, provides guidance for individual scientists and research groups interested in pursuing effective education outreach collaborations with science museums and other ISLOs. When prospective partners begin discussions early in the proposal development process, they increase the likelihood of successful outcomes in funding, implementation, and impact. A strategic planning worksheet is provided, along with a carefully-selected set of further resources to guide the design and planning of informal science learning experiences. Introduction “Have I made my case? Will our paper be accepted? Who will read it? What is the impact factor? Etc ….” Hold on; let us step back for a moment from the pressures of career science. Some of you may remember the days when just getting to participate in the realm of scientific discovery and exploration was a joy and a privilege; something you felt almost guilty about being paid to do, because you loved it, were inspired, and wanted to make a difference. Now you spend your days negotiating permits, following protocols, attending meetings, writing grants, advising students, and always more paperwork …. There is a cure for this. It is to share your science; go back to your roots and discover ways to engage others in the wonder and fascination that first lured you into living, thinking, and doing science. First, you may need to shake off some of the seriousness of your scholarly demeanor, shed layers of technical jargon that have entwined you, lay aside your political agenda, and tunnel back to the state of wonder and joy that first got you started on this journey. (Already you are noticing the relative informality of this article, tucked within the volume’s more scholarly contributions.) Now, unencumbered, what insights can you share with the not-yet-initiated: children, families, adventurers, sight-seers, students? How best can you share them? And, again, why bother? Because doing so may help you revive that lively sense of mission, curiosity, and fun that was once at the core of your own impetus for gaining insight into the scientific field that you now call your own. I work in a science museum, and I see this happen all the time. We partner with university research centers and labs, and we give graduate students and post-doctoral fellows opportunities to come learn how to share their science with the families, school kids, couples, and tourists who browse the spaces of our giant halls of discovery and play. We coach our scientist partners in using and designing hands-on minds-on activities related to their research, and in making short films and animations. We challenge college professors—accustomed to lecture halls and technical conference presentations—to come into our public presentation spaces and tell stories enlivened with big beautiful pictures and live hands-on demonstrations, and we workshop them through the steps of transformation from lecturer to inspirer (Fig. 1). The results can be profoundly energizing and uplifting. Here are some lightly-edited excerpts from comments we have recently captured on film from our graduate student volunteers (MOS 2017): In the lab you can get sort of very “in your head” about what you're working on, you're so familiar with it. And then you go and talk to people, and they're like, “wow, that's so cool!” And so, especially in graduate school, when things can be very, you know—a lot of things don't work, and you can get very sort of pessimistic and cynical—it's a lot of fun to come and talk to a much broader audience about them. When you're interacting with these children, and you just see something click, and then their face lights up, and they start explaining to you what is going on - that's really like the coolest moment … for that moment, they're as into it as you are (Fig. 2). I think an undervalued part of our jobs as scientists is being able to advocate for what we do, and this activity of being able to reach out and connect with the general public and get them excited about science is a really important part of being able to justify the work we do. Fig. 1 View largeDownload slide Howard University Professor Steven L. Richardson shares his passion for research with Museum of Science visitors. Fig. 1 View largeDownload slide Howard University Professor Steven L. Richardson shares his passion for research with Museum of Science visitors. Fig. 2 View largeDownload slide MIT Ph.D. candidate Eric Bersin delights youngsters at the Boston Museum of Science with a diamond magnetometer he and his colleagues hauled in from the lab. Fig. 2 View largeDownload slide MIT Ph.D. candidate Eric Bersin delights youngsters at the Boston Museum of Science with a diamond magnetometer he and his colleagues hauled in from the lab. A similar but more activist sentiment was captured in the program description of a roundtable held at the 2018 meeting of the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology this last January: “Many students go into science not just because of the beauty of science itself, but because they want to change the world, through science communication, education, or policy” (SICB 2018). In this spirit, national organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science have become more vocal in recent years, urging scientists to develop public engagement and science communication skills, especially in a political climate generally perceived as increasingly hostile to evidence-based policy-making. This article does not focus on achieving political ends; rather, it is about seizing opportunities to engage broader constituencies in the spirit of investigation, discovery, knowledge-sharing, and rational discourse embodied by science, and to assist in opening pathways for further exploration and participation. Sharing science: Where to begin? One good way to begin is to think about what audiences you or your group might want to reach, where they can be found, what they might find especially intriguing about your field, and how you might engage them by providing opportunities to see, touch, explore, ask questions, test answers, and make new connections. The agenda here is not about how much knowledge you can impart, but how deeply you can awaken in those around you those qualities of curiosity, inquiry, and enthusiasm that may prompt them to continue exploring on their own. This is the pedagogy of inquiry-based learning, and it is the hallmark of progressive classrooms and the core of the informal science learning industry—the professionals who design and provide museum programs and exhibits, citizen science and ranger interpretive programs, aquarium adventures, after-school nature clubs, and other out-of-classroom education experiences. In fact, a good way for scientists to cultivate broader communication skills and reach a larger audience, is to get involved with these types of informal science learning organizations (ISLOs), where sharing knowledge, inquiry, and insight into the natural world is core to their mission. ISLOs are likely to host volunteer opportunities and relevant collections, plus the spaces and facilities for accommodating visitors. They are already on the map as destinations for education- and adventure-loving people; they bring in science-attentive audiences; and many of them have staff who can help researchers develop effective means of engaging visitors. So, if your time for outreach is limited, ISLOs can help you leverage your efforts. A brief introduction to the world of informal science learning It is considered informal because it is not required, subscribes to no one set of standards, involves no exams or degrees, and usually happens outside the classroom. Another moniker for it is “free choice learning” (Falk 2002), because participation is purely voluntary: If it is not interesting, engaging, or fun, people will simply walk out the door. So, ISLOs employ professionals skilled at designing, implementing, and evaluating these experiences to ensure that people will want to keep having them. They seem to be doing a very good job. The Association of Science-Technology Centers has over 650 members operating in 47 countries, and based on 2016 survey data, estimates 120 million annual visits worldwide and 70 million in the USA alone (ASTC 2017). This influx of humanity is a bonanza for scientists wanting to get involved in outreach; it is far greater than the numbers who can be attracted to campus or institute venues. But their very popularity can limit the operational flexibility of larger science centers, museums, zoos, and aquaria. They are institutions with complex infrastructures. They schedule exhibits and programs, courses and visits, months and sometimes years in advance. Staff time is strictly allocated and budgets are limited. Few people realize that most US museums are not publicly-supported as are the Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington, D.C.; instead, they must make their own way on admission tickets and parking fees, grants and donations, gifts and tax breaks. This has implications that will be addressed a bit later. The first step for the scientist is to locate potential allies and partners. Scan your community and neighboring communities; find out what organizations are engaged in providing enrichment experiences for adults and youth; read their websites, make a visit. If you are a person who works with animals, try parks, zoos, refuges, aquaria, science, and natural history museums. If you are a person who works with plants, check out botanical gardens, horticultural societies, arboretums, parks, science, and natural history museums. Do they welcome local community members? Do they attract diverse visitors? Find out if they have collections relevant to your research, in-house scientists or curators, or educational programs that might welcome new ideas and resources. Find a person you can talk with who manages education programs, exhibit planning, or outreach; discuss the organization’s needs and goals. These are the people to whom you may take your ideas, make your initial pitch—get a dose of reality perhaps—then come back with a revised approach. The reality is that they, like you, have limited bandwidth, budget, and resources, and often other very real constraints; like visitor safety, animal welfare, employment law; it is helpful to understand what some of these are. Smaller organizations can sometimes be more flexible. Perhaps your project can be slipped right into a schedule of programs being curated for next spring; perhaps there is a volunteer opportunity for someone with your talents and expertise. You may need to reimagine and reconfigure to find the best match for all concerned. When is greater strategic collaboration required? Sometimes, just becoming a regular volunteer is what it takes to find a satisfying outlet for your interest in sharing science with others. You may be required to go through some training and supervision to get certified to work with visitors. However, other times, it may be the case that you want to contribute something new about your work, your research, or your field; perhaps by adding a new perspective, program, or activity in addition to what is already being offered onsite. Small ISLOs may have more flexibility to do this, but also fewer resources to spare. In larger ISLOs, as in larger universities, the wheels grind more slowly. In these cases, additional consultation, planning, and development will be required; even more so if the partnership involves formal contractual arrangements, as in large research center—science museum collaborations, or if the collaboration is being written into a grant proposal as a deliverable of federal research award. While this approach requires more up-front effort, it can also help you and your colleagues realize a public engagement initiative with much greater impact than you would have been able to achieve on your own. In fact, one big incentive for scientists to take steps toward getting involved in outreach comes in the form of guidance from science-funding organizations, who sometimes counsel applicants to include components of public outreach in their research programs. The National Science Foundation has its Broader Impacts Criterion alongside its Intellectual Merit Criterion, and this is designed to motivate applicants to use time and resources allocated from their award to address connections between research, practice, and societal impact (NSF 2018). Many NSF applicants and awardees—knowing that they do not necessarily have the confidence, skills, audiences, or venues suitable for making a significant impact on their own—look to ISLOs to help them accomplish these goals (Alpert 2009, 2013). The NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Informal Science (CAISE) provides advice, practical tools, and encouragement. (see the Resource section further below.) As a museum professional, I welcome the opportunity to bring scientists into the museum to interact face-to-face with our guests. Early-career researchers tend to be considerably more diverse than their more senior mentors, and we find it thrilling to see youngsters from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds light up when they get to interact with role models who look like not-much-older versions of themselves. Scientists bring authenticity to our programs, and they help us introduce state-of-the-art science and technology to our constituencies. We have learned that we need to allocate significant time and resources to cultivate these partnerships; to understand the research well-enough to help devise ways to share it, and to give the scientists and their students the training and supervised practical experience they need to feel confident and successful working with visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Advice to scientists regarding ISLO collaborations Because science museums get so many requests from researchers to help them pursue the broader impacts portions of their research projects, I wrote a guide for science museum professionals several years ago, providing advice on ways to develop effective partnerships with university-based researchers and research centers (Alpert 2013). These days, I spend a considerable amount of time in universities, working with researchers on their professional and public communication skills, and I have learned that they often would like guidance about initiating effective collaborations with science museums and other ISLOs. The first lesson concerns last-minute calls. Science museum managers often receive last-minute calls or emails from researchers who are about to submit a proposal to a funding agency such as the National Science Foundation. These callers suggest that as part of their federally-funded research they will provide to the science museum a great set of evening lectures, or perhaps an exhibit to be designed by their graduate students in connection with their proposed research. Typically, the university caller requests a pdf sent on museum letterhead, confirming commitment to the proposed collaboration. The request may be urgent, as the letter needs to be included in the proposal submission which may be due in only a few days; the details to be worked out later. Yet, by this stage in the proposal development process, the entire budget has almost certainly already been allocated. There has likely been little discussion on what form of outreach might be best suited to the topic or to the intended audiences, and no consultation with the proposed ISLO collaborator. As I advise my science museum colleagues, such a request needs to be politely but firmly turned down, with an invitation to make contact again several months ahead of the next proposal due date. Here are a few of the warning flags this approach raises in the mind of the ISLO professional: It is indicative of last-minute planning, and assumes either that public engagement projects are trivial to carry out, or that the museum already has plenty of funding, resources and staff on hand to do the work, which is almost never the case. In the absence of a budget and a well-thought-out evidence-based plan, savvy reviewers may doubt serious commitment. Even if the proposal is funded, neither partner will have much incentive to follow through on the vaguely-stated intent, especially in the midst of other more pressing priorities. This just-in-time approach does not bode well for future collaboration. It tends to produce token efforts, perhaps in time for critical grant reporting periods. Lectures and talks have their place in informal science learning settings. Even so, most university-style talks and Powerpoint presentations need considerable transformation before they are ready for prime-time in free-choice learning venues, where the audience will walk away if not engaged, or if the slides are crammed with graphs and technical information too small to see. Had the researchers proposed introductory discussions earlier with ISLO management and staff, there could have been brainstorming and collaboration toward crafting more welcoming, interactive, and effective audience engagement experiences. The conception, design, and production of most science museum exhibits is a complex, team-based craft of professionals guided by accepted standards in education, design, spatial integration, accessibility, and safety; with adherence to strict scheduling for prototyping, evaluation, and revision; and a commitment to maintenance. It is not a job for graduate students. However, with appropriate staff support, many museums can provide graduate students with training in science communication and public engagement, and work with them to develop smaller, simpler hands-on activities for visitors and other forms of face-to-face engagement. The last-minute phone call signals a lost opportunity to benefit both the research enterprise and the broader community, the principal investigator and the students, and the cause of science literacy in general. But it does not have to be this way. Gradually, researchers and informal science educators are learning how to come together to brainstorm and plan their collaborations more effectively and successfully. Collaboration through strategic planning With inspiration, complementary expertise, and advance planning, many researchers and ISLO professionals have initiated very successful research center—science museum collaborations, some lasting for many years. I manage one that has been ongoing since 2001, funded by successive NSF research center grants and renewals (NSF 0117795, 0646094, 1231319). This collaboration has produced museum programs and presentations, videos, podcasts, and television news, science theater and special events reaching millions of people. It has also provided science communication training for hundreds of university students. But a successful collaboration need not be so grand in scale. What counts most is that the collaborators understand each other, discuss the options in advance, find the right fit for their respective interests, resources, and prospective audiences, agree on a plan of action, and set an appropriate budget. In smaller scale collaborations—for instance, those involving a single research lab and a local ISLO or a single department of a larger ISLO—these planning activities may be easily accomplished in the space of several meetings, culminating in a simple letter of agreement. Larger-scale collaborations—such as those involving large research centers, multiple organizations, and ambitious projects to be implemented across several years—are more likely to succeed if certain planning steps are undertaken in advance. We recommend that each prospective collaboration partner conducts a preliminary strategic assessment that lays the groundwork for building successful collaborations. For the ISLO partner, this includes: identifying high priority topic areas for exhibit and program enrichment; especially those that would benefit from collaborations with university researchers and students; and providing infrastructure for vetting and managing collaborations. This may include designating a point person and setting up in-house procedures for internal planning, consultation, evaluating, and budgeting and accounting. For the research partner, it includes: assessing the range of goals for pursuing the collaboration; considering desired outcomes; evaluating available resources or potential external funding; exploring potential partners and their interests and availability; and beginning discussions many months prior to the intended activity or proposal. Translating research Scientists get funding for very specific technical investigations that can sound quite inaccessible to general audiences. The research team may be proposing, for instance, to investigate how rainfall patterns influence fertility variations across sub-populations of a certain ground species. Science communication professionals and museum educators can help scientists tell their story within a broader context that provides additional motivation and relevance; perhaps in this case, the need to better understand the impact of climate change on the emergence of new animal-borne diseases. They might also encourage the researchers to share more personal insights, to highlight the adventures of field work, bring in samples, or develop an interactive activity that allows players to explore the effects of several variables on animal populations and disease. The goal is to balance the what with the why and the what for—to tell a good story and reveal the eye-opening big picture. The hidden benefit for scientists is that these strategies can also be quite useful in helping them communicate effectively with funders, journalists and, perhaps surprisingly, with scientists in other specialties, helping to set the stage for innovative cross-disciplinary research collaborations (Alpert 2013). Forms of engagement Most people think of exhibits when they think of science museums, and yet an exhibit may not be the best approach. Exhibits are expensive, and they take a lot of time to develop, prototype, test, and install. They are also difficult to update as the research advances. Scientists who want to engage more actively with visitors would do well to conceive of it as an opportunity to learn as well as share expertise. By being willing to listen and ask questions, they can join with visitors in exploring broader aspects and societal implications of research, and these conversations can sometimes yield important new perspectives. If the research has controversial elements, tools are available to help researchers working with ISLOs develop public forums on science and technology topics (Bell et al. 2017). Much interpretation of current science occurs in the form of museum exhibit hall presentations and demonstrations, through web and new media, and at special events where researchers and their students can interact and dialogue with visitors, preferably with prior coaching by ISLO staff. These types of activities are easier than exhibits to update and improve as the research progresses and yields new findings. In nature centers and zoos and aquaria, enrichment programs can also take the form of tours and gallery talks, aided by hands-on activities that bring visitors closer to the organisms and environments under study. One of the best uses of grant resources is to provide partial support for one or more ISLO educators who can get to know the research team and their work, and collaborate with them to develop novel programs and activities. The ISLO educators can then deliver those programs and activities on an ongoing basis without taking too much time away from the scientists and their students. This strategy leverages the partnership to achieve even broader impact; many more people will have the opportunity to participate; there may be potential for further dissemination. Budget Try to avoid getting too far along discussing a vision for education and outreach without some grounding in the reality of its cost in relation to the resources available. If funding is limited, aim to do a fabulous job within the available resources; or, see if negotiation or additional fund-raising can produce the necessary resources. University faculty may be accustomed to a culture where time is more flexible and students provide off-the-clock labor. They may underestimate the true cost of the professional expertise involved in developing, testing, and carrying out truly effective informal science learning programs on a regular basis. The bottom line is to design a scope commensurate with the budget, and then execute it very well. Research and evaluation Research and evaluation are increasingly important aspects of informal science learning design, and the field is developing in a more scholarly way, with increased capacity to devise testable research questions, implement stricter protocols, and publish findings. Outreach collaborations do not typically involve formal research studies, but they do require a commitment to at least a literature review and front-end and formative evaluation strategies that can help guide the design, development and remedial modifications of exhibits and programs, workshops, and other kinds of learning activities. While page limits restrict the amount of detail allotted to the education, outreach and other broader-impacts components of research proposals, the plans will be taken more seriously if they (1) reference published material supportive of the approach, (2) include evaluation plans, and (3) mention the qualifications of the design and implementation team. Review panels and program officers are increasingly savvy about distinguishing well-planned, evidence-based strategies from those that merely sound good. They look for measures of impact and other forms of accountability that can be built into the program, as well as the intention to share what is learned through posting of evaluation studies to repositories such as www.informalscience.org. NSF has made available its own Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects (Friedman 2008), and the NISE Network developed a Team-Based Inquiry Guide (Pattison et al. 2014), that helps program developers conduct their own in-house formative evaluations. Keep in mind that surveying, observing, testing, interviewing, and other evaluation protocols conducted with adults and particularly with children (minors 18 and under) may be subject to approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Partners should be prepared to set up a working arrangement with the university’s IRB or that of the ISLO. A Worksheet for Scientists Seeking Collaborations with Informal Science Learning Organizations (Reproduced here with permission from the Museum of Science) What do we want to share with broader audiences? Do we have specific messages to communicate? A new perspective to share? Why do we think it is important to share these ideas/experiences? What motivates us? How might the community benefit? Whom do we most want to reach, and where can we find them? What might we learn from them? Are they likely to already have an interest or connection to this topic? How will we attract and engage them? What unusual experiences might we be able to offer? What is our timeline, and what resources can we bring? What informal science learning organizations might we be able to partner with? e.g., natural history, science, or children's museums; zoos, botanical gardens, aquaria; parks, historic sites, visitor centers; libraries, after-school, community organizations. What programs and activities do they have that we might fit in to? Who can we speak with there? Topics for discussion with a potential ISLO partner Do they already partner with researchers? If so, what is the procedure? How interested are they in our topic area and our ideas for collaboration? What resources, materials, and expertise can we bring to the table? (What special experiences can we offer?) Could they help us develop the content and format in a way that will be successful with their visitors? What additional funding, resources, support will they need? Are they interested in joining a grant proposal with us, and do they have the wherewithal to do that? (e.g., grants management infrastructure, IRB, federal ID, etc.) Can some of our students be involved? What training will they need? What is a reasonable timeline for pursuing next steps? Working together Designate coordinators from each organization. Meet to brainstorm ideas for developing engaging content and format. Check these against practical and operational constraints, time, and resources. If a funding proposal is required, come to agreement on scope and budget. Devise an initial development, evaluation, and implementation plan. Vet with internal and external stakeholders. Set timelines and checkpoints. Keep in touch. Regular communication builds trust and confidence. Resources for scientists interested in partnering with ISLOs Find a science center, museum, zoo, or aquarium at the Association of Science-Technology Center’s web resource: http://www.astc.org/about-astc/about-science-centers/find-a-science-center/ Gain insight into informal science learning pedagogy, strategy, and evaluation at the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science’s introductory page for scientists: http://informalscience.org/projects/scientists-and-public-engagement Consult the Framework for Evaluation Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects, an NSF-sponsored guide: http://www.informalscience.org/framework-evaluating-impacts-informal-science-education-projects Consult the website of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI), an NSF-funded network of individuals and organizations working to build institutional capacity, advance BI, and demonstrate societal benefits: https://broaderimpacts.net. Consult “Public Engagement with Science: a guide to creating conversations among publics and scientists for mutual learning and societal decision-making,” at https://www.mos.org/sites/dev-elvis.mos.org/files/docs/offerings/PES_guide_10_20r_HR.pdf. Look into Portal to the Public, a network of ISLOs that provide training and resources for museum-university partnerships: https://popnet.pacificsciencecenter.org Download printed and electronic material included in the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum Planning & Implementation Guide. The SSW&P is an effective one-day or two half-day workshop used by researcher-ISLO partners to introduce researchers and their students to inquiry-based learning techniques in informal science learning environments. http://www.nisenet.org/catalog/tools_guides/sharing_science_workshop_practicum Share your science; give it a shot Share your science. Learn to do it well. Do it with young people, old people, family members, community, and strangers. Share not just what you have learned, but also how you have learned it, and how it has influenced your way of thinking. Endeavor to show others why you find it fascinating, and what relevance it may have to our lives and to the world we live in. Invite others in to experience a bit of what you do. Encourage them to ask questions; reward them with responses formulated in simple terms, word pictures, and analogies. Be open to their thoughts and ideas and listen well. Such inspiration is priceless. Acknowledgments The author wishes to thank her Museum of Science colleagues Karine Thate, Megan Litwhiler, and Larry Bell; Martha Merson for the impetus to write this piece; and the reviewers for their sound advice. Funding This work was supported by the National Science Foundation [grant numbers 1231319, 1323030, 1555541]. References Alpert CL. 2009 . Broadening and deepening the impact: a theoretical framework for partnerships between science museums and STEM research centres . Social Epistemol 23 : 267 – 81 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Alpert CL. 2009 . The research communication continuum: linking public engagement skills to the advancement of cross-disciplinary research . J Museum Educ 28 : 28 . Alpert CL. 2013 . A guide to building partnerships between science museums and university-based research centers. Museum of Science, Boston: NISE Network. Association of Science Centers (ASTC) . 2017 . Science center statistics from the 2016 ASTC Statistics Survey. (http://www.astc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ASTC_SCStats-2016.pdf) (Accessed January 27, 2018). Falk JH. 2002 . The contribution of free-choice learning to public understanding of science . Interciencia 27 : 62 – 65 . Friedman A. (ed.). 2008 . Framework for evaluating impacts of informal science education projects. (http://www.informalscience.org/framework-evaluating-impacts-informal-science-education-projects) (Accessed March 18, 2018). Bell L , Lowenthal C, Sittenfeld D, Todd D, Pfeifle S, Kunz Kollmann E. 2017. Public Engagement with Science. Museum of Science. (https://www.mos.org/sites/dev-elvis.mos.org/files/docs/offerings/PES_guide_10_20r_HR.pdf) (Accessed March 17, 2018). MOS . 2017 . Video interviews with Center for Integrated Quantum Materials graduate student volunteers at NanoDays 2017. Boston: Museum of Science digital archives. National Science Foundation . 2018 . Broader Impacts: Improving Society. (https://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/special/broaderimpacts/) (Accessed January 29, 2018) Pattison S , Cohn S , Kollmann L. 2014 . Team-based inquiry: a practical guide for using evaluation to improve informal education experiences. 2nd ed. (http://nisenet.org/catalog/team-based-inquiry-guide) (Accessed March 17, 2018). Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology annual meeting program . 2018 , January 3–7, San Francisco (http://www.sicb.org/meetings/2018/spdac.php) (Accessed March 18, 2018). © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved. For permissions please email: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Published: Jul 1, 2018

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