Broader Impacts + Informal Science Education (ISE) 2013

In November 2013 CAISE facilitated a convening on Broader Impacts and Informal Science Education for practitioners and researchers who have been working at the nexus of scientific research and ISE. The group included ISE professionals, research scientists who currently lead education and public outreach efforts through science societies and professional associations, and NSF Program Officers who are interested in encouraging principal investigators (PIs) of projects in their portfolios to participate in or develop ISE strategies and partnerships as a part of their plans for addressing broader impacts. With the redesign and launch of InformalScience.org this past summer, CAISE recognizes a unique opportunity to support the work of this community by enhancing our open online resource to provide information about the breadth and depth of ISE projects, the learning research that informs them, and the lessons learned from their evaluations to scientists and their education/outreach/communication staffs. Our theory of action is that by raising awareness, enhancing accessibility and facilitating connectivity, CAISE can support investigators and STEM-based professionals in developing intellectually rigorous broader impacts plans that exploit the rich opportunities that ISE can add to their palette.

Among the background materials that framed and informed the agenda and activities for the convening were papers by CAISE advisor Nalini Nadkarni and Carol Lynn Alpert of the Museum of Science, Boston, which explore different aspects of the broader impacts problem space and, in the case of the Alpert paper, how ISE can broker solutions through innovative partnerships. CAISE also requested a front-end survey and report from the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning at Oregon State University, the goal of which was to get a sense of how investigators currently respond to the broader impacts criterion requirement. Conducted and authored by Julie Risien and John Falk, the survey and resulting report summarizes responses from a sample of scientists from a variety of disciplines and institutions who described how they currently think about broader impacts, what strategies and processes they use to address the criterion, the resources and supports they have at their disposal (or would like to have), and how they think the ISE community might "market" itself as a potential partner when planning and implementing broader impacts activities. Convening participants also prepared by reading current theory on approaches to metadata standards, content creation and curation, and marketing and communication strategies.

With this framing in mind, the group met to:

  • Brainstorm ways to expand and build out the metadata framework and controlled vocabulary on InformalScience.org to better reflect the needs, interests, and language of scientists and university/lab directors of education and outreach
  • Provide examples of potential CAISE collection development activities and ideas for how to identify quality source material for the InformalScience.org repository of ISE project descriptions, evaluation reports and reference materials
  • Draft a marketing and communication strategy that promotes InformalScience.org to scientists and education and public outreach officers

Input and recommendations from the meeting led to the development of the Scientists and Public Engagement page of the CAISE website.

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