Reaching Out to New Audiences in Our Science, Technology and Society Discussion Programming

Friday, June 1, 2007
Resource Type:
Front-End | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Interview Protocol | Evaluation Reports
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs
Adults | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Computing and information science | Education and learning science | Engineering | Technology
Museum of Science, Boston, Museum of Science

Forum is a program at the Museum of Science that promotes the exchange of different perspectives on topics in science, technology, and society through small group discussion. At previous Forums held at the Museum of Science, attendees were typically recent Museum visitors. Certain types of participants, such as individuals from politically conservative groups or individuals from lower income and/or lower socioeconomic levels, were not observed as attending. Hence, this study aims to explore various groups' perceptions of the Forum program. To assess their perception of the Forum program, five focus groups were held with volunteers at the Museum of Science, members of a Republican interest organization, members of a working women's group, students in a technology training program, and career counselors speaking on behalf of their clientele, who are typically low income and/or have disabilities. Participants were asked about what types of conversations they already have about science and technology, their perceptions of two existing Forums, and their suggestions on how to increase the likelihood of members from their community to attend. Findings revealed that only one of the participants had heard about the Forum program prior to the focus group, but participants would be interested in attending Forum if some modifications were made to the program. The Republican focus group and to a lesser degree, the volunteer focus group advocated for multiple perspectives with interdisciplinary, celebrity speakers. The career counselor, working women's group, and technology training group suggested holding local neighborhood forums on topics they face in their everyday lives, and providing a bonus of free admission to the Museum. All focus groups suggested having attractive advertising and easily accessible locations to hold the forum. Based on participants' suggestions, two types of forums serving two types of audiences arose: an informational and practical forum, in which basic, actionable information is disseminated, and a controversial forum, in which multiple viewpoints are presented by well known individuals and discussed. We suggest that the two forums could be complementary with the informational forum leading up to a more controversially oriented program. This matter warrants further investigation by both researchers and program organizers and highlights the need for potential partnership with a board to consult on issues like advertising, topic choice, and format design. The appendix of this report includes the interview protocol used in the study.

Team Members

Elissa ChinElissa ChinEvaluator
Christine ReichChristine ReichEvaluator

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