World Biotech Tour: Findings from an International Science Center and Museum Program
The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) aims to help member institutions inform and educate the public about science through a global lens. The World Biotech Tour (WBT) was a three-year initiative designed to not only promote a greater understanding of biotechnology through public outreach and programming led by science centers and museums, but also as an opportunity for ASTC to collect useful data on the resources required and challenges encountered at different science museums around the world when implementing a long-term, multi-country program. The WBT involved students, teachers, researchers, science communication professionals, and the general public at 12 science centers and museums (“Hosts”) in 12 different countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Thailand. Participating organizations varied in size between thousands of visitors per year to hundreds of thousands of visitors at a single event. These variations, including their geographical locations, allowed a culturally unique visitor experience through activities developed and hosted at each site throughout the active tour year (January–November). The program, supported by the Biogen Foundation and ASTC, ran from 2015 to 2017.
The following summative report of the three-year project is an effort to discuss the main successes and challenges, highlight lessons learned, and suggest recommendations to assist science museum and informal science education professionals in developing similar future programs or improving current programs. It was also important for ASTC to take the opportunity
with such a multi-faceted project to collect data that would be useful for the science center and museum field. In particular, observations were made on how science museums interpreted the same project requirements in different regions around the world, the unique methods used to communicate about a complex topic, the needs and barriers of developing a youth program, and how all these components were connected across an international network. This required a thorough evaluation plan that covered multiple sites and countries. A careful review was conducted on the two-pronged evaluation method used in the project that included reporting from within the participating science museums and external evaluation from local evaluators.
May this report serve as a tool for science centers, museums, evaluators, and other science advocates in creating successful international programs that continue to connect people around the world through the wonder and awe of science.