Communicating Science Through Science Museums & Centers

Two weeks ago, I spent my spring break at the Exploratorium, as a visiting Osher Fellow. One of the projects I consulted on was the Exploratorium's "evidence" project, an exciting initiative that will provide Web and floor content introducing the public to how science works as a process and how science develops as a body of knowledge. In June, a special expert workshop will be held on the topic at the National Science Foundation, and there is likely to be proceedings published. I hope to have more to report come summer.

Among the other topics I discussed with staff were the themes presented at the AAAS panel on Communicating Science in a Religious America. Specifically, should science museums and science centers try to effectively engage the public on questions of science and faith? One point I made was that if science museums and other institutions do not engage the public on the science and religion relationship, others definitely will. It's the two extreme tail ends of the spectrum problem that I discussed at AAAS and in a recent Point of Inquiry podcast. On one side will be Christian fundamentalists and on the other side will be very visible and vocal atheists, lost in the polarizing rhetoric will be an invisible middle perspective of leading science organizations, religious leaders, and institutions who do not view an inherent tension between religion and science.

On a related note, last year Chris Mooney and I gave a Speaking Science 2.0 address at the New York Academy of Sciences (audio and slides here). Following the event, a group of science graduate students were inspired to launch their own speaking series on public engagement and outreach, co-sponsored by the NYAS. Among their upcoming events, is a very interesting discussion of science communication at museums and learning centers. Details below.

Science Writers in New York (SWINY) and the Science Communication Consortium (SCC) present:

Reaching Out to Lay Audiences: Communicating Science through Museums, Science Centers, and Community Programs
Thursday, March 27th, 7:00-8:30 PM
NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (20 Cooper Square, NY NY)

People get news about science and technology in many ways, including TV, newspapers, magazines and web sites. However, science centers, museums, and community outreach projects are gaining momentum as vital ways to deliver up-to-date stories about the latest breakthroughs and discoveries in science and technology. Join us on March 27th to discuss how scientists and science writers engage lay audiences and build scientific literacy through these unique settings.

Speakers include:
Laura Allen, senior writer and news producer of Science Bulletins at the American Museum of Natural History
Since 2004, Laura has managed the editorial and visual production of all biweekly news updates and writes the essays that supplement each semiannual Science Bulletin feature documentary online. Part of her job involves explaining how scientist collect and interpret scientific data, such as satellite imagery.

Karen de Seve, senior exhibit developer and project manager of Breakthroughs at the Liberty Science Center
Karen edits and manages current e-news stories displayed within the science center's exhibition galleries, and develops and writes Breakthroughs exhibitions of various topics and themes.

Susan Heilman, Current Science and Technology department at the Boston Museum of Science
Susan gives daily presentations at the Museum of Science and discusses
the latest science news stories during a monthly cablecast on New England Cable News and in regularly produced podcasts. Susan will be on location in Boston and will participate via videoconference. The event will take place at NYU's Science, Health and Environmental
Reporting Program headquarters (20 Cooper Square, Manhattan, NY; located between E 5-6th Streets at intersection of 4th Ave, Bowery & Cooper Sq)

Free registration is now open at NYAS:

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