Collaborative Research: Influencing Millennial Science Engagement

October 1st, 2018 - September 30th, 2021 | PROJECT

As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. This Innovations in Development project will research and produce science media based on the role that interest, motivations, identify, and values play in engaging diverse, millennial audiences in a dynamic media environment. Using a design-based research approach the project team will develop Millennial Science Media Engagement Profiles (a set of categories describing different audience types who engage with science media in different ways). It will design and test science media content (text, audio, graphics, video), placement and platform use for millennials; and make conclusions around science media storytelling and outreach tactics that spark interest and engagement, the precursors to learning. Broader impacts include contributing significant new knowledge about millennials interest and engagement in science while they are at a stage in life making critical career decisions. It will also provide a model for other science media producers providing new protocols for creating targeted digital media for this specific audience. And further impacts include reaching a large national audience through social media. The project is a collaboration between KQED and researchers at Texas Tech.

The research will focus on the distinctive experience and interest of "millennial" science consumers. It builds on a previously funded national survey and series of focus groups with millennials looking at their science media preferences versus other generations. With these survey results this project will build profiles of millennial audiences based on two factors: level of science curiosity and level of science media engagement. The researchers will use a previously validated Science Curiosity Scale. The Millennial Profiles will be validated in two ways: through performance-based survey questions and through internet audience behavior analysis using existing digital analysis tools. KQED will produce different science media content and send it to certain groups conducting A/B testing to validate profiles online. The profile assumptions will continue to be tested until the team can effectively predict the kinds of science content that different profile groups prefer. The research will use a study protocol used in other domains to bridge the gap between lab and real-world settings. The protocol involves four steps: initial hypothesis development; ante experimental simulation; real-world communication; and ex post experimental simulations. Following the profile validation, the protocol will be used to test the efficacy of new KQED Science content, testing the variables that contribute to millennial engagement.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Cracking the Code: Exploratory and verification surveys on millennials and their science curiosity, interest, engagement, identity, media habits, and cultural and religious behaviors
Cracking the Code: Survey Takes A 'Deep Look' at Science Video Audience and Gender Disparity
Cracking the Code: What’s Keeping Women from Watching Deep Look’s Science Videos? No Easy Answers
Cracking the Code: Do Stories about Health – and Sex – Draw Women to Watch KQED’s Deep Look Science Videos?
Cracking the Code: Study Advances Understanding of Women’s Intentions to Watch Deep Look YouTube Videos
Cracking the Code: What’s the Value of Behind-The-Scenes Content for a Science Series like KQED’s Deep Look?
Cracking the Code: How Women Engage with Deep Look: A Facebook Science Content Experiment
Cracking the Code: Experimenting with Science News Headline Format to Maximize Engagement
Cracking the Code: 2021 Survey Results on Millennials and Their Science Curiosity
Cracking the Code: A Science Media — Research Partnership for Improving the Quality of Science Communication -- Blog series
Cracking the Code: Guide #1 – An Audience Research Collaboration Guide for Media Professionals, Evaluators and Communication Researchers
Cracking the Code: Guide #2 – A Guide to Identify Your Missing Audience
Cracking the Code: Guide #3 – Steps for Conducting Media Research and Research Protocols
Cracking The Code: Millennial Science Media Habits and Engagement Summary
Cracking the Code: Influencing Millennial Science Engagement - Outcomes Report A NSF AISL funded research collaboration with KQED, Texas Tech University and Rockman et al
Cracking the Code: Influencing Millennial Science Engagement Evaluation
Cracking the Code: When Science News is Awesome
Are Women a Missing Audience for Science on YouTube

Team Members

Sue Ellen McCann, Principal Investigator, KQED
Sevda Eris, Co-Principal Investigator
Jennifer Brady, Co-Principal Investigator
Asheley Landrum, Principal Investigator, Texas Tech University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1811019
Funding Amount: $1,932,857.00

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1810990
Funding Amount: $152,034.00


Audience: Adults | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Broadcast Media | Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media