Collaborative Research: Partnerships to Strengthen and Diversify Broader Impacts Activities
As higher education institutions (HEIs) work to enhance Broader Impacts (BI) efforts, collaborations with informal science education institutions (ISEs) (e.g. science centers, aquaria, zoos) can help them strengthen their impact and reach broader audiences. This project builds on the successful Portal to the Public (PoP) framework, bringing together the expertise and resources of HEIs and ISEs around the shared mission of engaging public audiences in current STEM research. The project is designed to address several critical needs: (1) Public outreach BI activities are relatively uncommon compared to BI that is focused within the infrastructure of academia; (2) Because collaborations with ISEs are frequently tied to individual Principal Investigators (PIs), there is limited opportunity to build a body of knowledge around the practice of partnering for BI work; and (3) Collaborations are often transient, making it more difficult for universities to view BI on an institutional level in ways that leverage particular institutional assets or strategies and even link investigators from multiple projects. The specific areas of study are: a. Develop and test a structure for education/outreach BI experience design that addresses a public audience need and meets NSF's BI criterion: The project will create disseminatable tools around the activity design process (including evaluation of learning impacts). By convening cross-disciplinary teams, the project will ensure that experiences will reflect a wide range of expertise and will help meet the needs of multiple stakeholders. These established structures will lower the barrier to entry for PIs who want to do public outreach BI. b. Design, test, and study structures for long-term, mutually beneficial HEI-ISE partnerships: The project will build on the proven PoP model to create flexible, disseminatable tools around the development of institutional partnerships at three collaborating HEI-ISE site pairings that consider each institution's resources, constraints and strategic goals, including a cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary Broader Impacts Design (BID) Team structure. Sustained partnerships will support ongoing public engagement with current STEM research. c. Anchor the partnership at the HEI with a representative from an office of research support: Research support professionals will be a core part of the BID Team and will help support institutional strategies for aligning BI activities with broader goals around community engagement. d. Study the culture of HEI-ISE partnerships, building knowledge about how these institutions can form effective, sustained and mutually beneficial collaborations. Project partners include Pacific Science Center with the University of Washington, Bothell, WA; University of Wisconsin-Madison with the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery; and the Sciencenter with Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. In addition, the Center for Research in Lifelong Learning, Oregon State University will oversee the research aspects of the project. The project's primary benefit is the development of more effective mechanisms for HEIs and ISEs to collaborate, that will better enable them to engage their communities in experiences and conversations about current STEM research and innovation. This project is being funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments.