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Museum of Science, Boston Leads National Project to Bridge Gap Between Science and Community

February 8, 2019

With Funding from the National Science Foundation, New Public Engagement Project Looks to Strengthen Science Centers’ Roles as Community Conveners

BOSTON (February 8, 2019) The Museum of Science, Boston announces that it has launched a new, national initiative aimed at bridging the gap between science and community. With a generous grant from the National Science Foundation, the Museum is partnering with other leading science centers - including the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Michigan Science Center, and the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science - to create a roadmap for developing and implementing community forums that encourage public engagement with science, as well as open dialogue with local community, civic, and scientist partners.

Supported by the prestigious ‘Innovations in Development’ award through the Advancing Informal Science Learning program at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the project, “Building Capacity for Co-Created Public Engagement with Science” (CC-PES) will facilitate conversations between community members and civic leaders on scientific topics of community interest. The project is designed to have a strategic impact on the way that informal science education institutions develop as conveners for their communities. 

In Boston, the Museum of Science is collaborating with the City of Boston’s office of New Urban Mechanics and the Department of Innovation and Technology and the Urban College of Boston who will serve as civic partners and community members, respectively throughout the initiative’s four-year duration.

“The City of Boston is proud to be partnering with the Museum of Science and the Urban College of Boston to engage on scientific issues that matter to our communities,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Whether it’s healthcare, transportation, climate change, or technology, these issues impact every aspect of our lives, and Boston is proud to help lead the way with its partners, bringing these conversations to residents throughout Boston."

Having developed over 100 community engagement forums over the past 16 years, the Museum of Science has developed an expertise in the traditional community engagement event, where organizers develop the topic and facilitate the discussion surrounding the chosen topic. However, with the CC-PES project, the Museum of Science aims to turn the traditional model upside down and empower community leaders and their constituents to choose what matters most to them, developing the forum topics themselves.

“At the Museum of Science, we look to engage our community with science in a multitude of ways. The CC-PES initiative is designed to maximize the opportunity for multi-directional learning among forum participants about their chosen topic”, said Annette Sawyer, Vice President, Education and Enrichment Programs. “It is up to us to make science accessible to all and engage community members in a way that supports them to inform civic leaders of what matters most to them. Through CC-PES, we are hoping to help break down barriers to scientific topics, designing forums that encourage respectful and informed engagement around the chosen topic or issue.”

The program’s goal is to identify what interests community members from the outset in order to design a forum that will facilitate conversation regarding science and society between community members and their leaders.

“UCB is thrilled to be part of this cutting-edge effort in partnership with the City of Boston and the Museum of Science,” said Michael Taylor, President of Urban College of Boston. “Located in the heart of downtown Boston, UCB is a college that prioritizes access and affordability for all, so we are grateful to be a part of this federally-funded initiative focused on increasing community engagement, equity, and access in discussions about science and its role in society.”

Over the course of the next four years, the National Science Foundation will grant the Museum’s project $1.9 million to disseminate amongst its national partners to conduct similar initiatives around the country. This will include convening several events to inform participants about the process and begin discussing potential topics for investigation.

Later in 2019, the Museum of Science will bring community members and science/civic partners together to identify their forum’s topic of choice, which could include anything from smart and connected cities to jobs and AI, the opioid epidemic, and more. After a topic has been determined, Museum researchers will continue to work together with their community, civic, and scientist partners to develop meaningful content for the community forum program scheduled to take place in the spring of 2020.

“Locally, our aim in all our forums is to engage the public in deep conversations about important scientific topics that have greater impact on our society.  In the past our forum work has been able to influence policy debates and decision making at the highest levels,” said David Sittenfeld, Program Manager, Forum at the Museum of Science. “This NSF-funded project affords us the opportunity to include our community and civic partners in the agenda-setting for these discussions, a process that we hope will increase the relevance of these forums for diverse audiences. At a national level, we will gather all the learning from our science center and community partners to develop a process that other informal science institutions can adopt for their own efforts in being conveners for their communities.”

The Museum held its initial community welcome meeting on February 7th. If you are interested in learning more or becoming involved in future CC-PES events, please contact forumrsvp@mos.org for more details.

 

About the Museum of Science, Boston

One of the world's largest science centers and New England's most attended cultural institution, the Museum introduces more than 1.4 million visitors a year to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) through the world-class hands-on exhibits, programs and pre-K-12 curricula of its William and Charlotte Bloomberg Science Education Center. An extraordinary variety of learning experiences span the Hall of Human Life, Thomson Theater of Electricity, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Mugar Omni Theater, Gordon Current Science & Technology Center, 4-D Theater, and Butterfly Garden. The Science Behind Pixar, created with Pixar Animation Studios, is touring internationally. The Museum's National Center for Technological Literacy® has transformed STEM education nationally and internationally through advocacy, standards and assessment reforms, teacher professional development, and curriculum development. The Museum’s pre-K-12 curricula, including its award-winning Engineering is Elementary®, have reached an estimated 18 million students and 185,000 educators. Visit: http://www.mos.org.

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