Engaging Multicultural Audiences through Inclusive STEM content on YouTube

August 1st, 2021 - July 31st, 2024 | PROJECT

This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to (a) advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; (b) provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; (c) advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and (d) engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.

Increasing greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in science not only presents a social justice goal, but is also vital to the financial and social success of the nation. The stereotype of the older white male scientist has obscured the contributions of women and people of color. This project seeks to remedy these perceptions which are barriers to entry into STEM fields. The project will create a large-scale hub for STEM themed video content on YouTube and other social media platforms, featuring 100+ original STEM videos produced by PBS partners. This hub and accompanying research seeks to identify the characteristics of online STEM content that attract (or fail to attract) underrepresented groups, specifically Black and Hispanic communities as well as women of all races. The objectives of this project are to 1) provide a unified online science-themed hub, PBS Terra, on YouTube and other platforms for hosting, sharing, and distributing digital STEM series from diverse producers from across the PBS system; 2) conduct surveys and focus groups to examine and understand the needs and expectations of women, Black and Hispanic communities and their consumption of STEM video content online and 3) test hypotheses about the communicative strategies of STEM videos that feature Black and Hispanic female scientists. Project collaborators include PBS, researchers at the University of Utah and the University of Georgia, and consultants and advisors with expertise in broadening participation and inclusion in STEM.

Little is known about how or why adult Americans seek science content on YouTube, especially the motivations of adults from underrepresented minorities and females. The key research questions in this project are: 1) Why do Black and Hispanic audiences and women of all races seek science video content online? 2) How does showing Black and Hispanic female scientists in science video content on YouTube impact viewers’ identification with and sense of belonging in STEM? 3) How does the use of humor by Black and Hispanic scientists in YouTube science content affect viewers’ perceptions of the communicator and their engagement with STEM content? 4) How does the appearance and manner of dress of Black and Hispanic scientists in YouTube science content affect viewers’ perceptions in the aforementioned areas? A nationally representative baseline survey will be conducted. A probability sample of 2000 respondents will be obtained including oversampling of Black and Hispanic audiences. To complement findings from the survey, focus groups will be conducted in eight different regions of the country to learn why these targeted audiences do or do not seek science content on YouTube and what motivates them to share the content with their social media network. In addition, an experiment embedded in an online survey will test the hypothesis that greater on-screen representation of women and scientists of color will broaden existing perceptions about scientists. The experiment will consist of a 3 (scientist’s race: Black/Hispanic/White) × 2 (science issue: controversial/non-controversial) × 2 (style: casual/professional) between-subjects design. Survey participants will be randomly assigned to the experimental conditions. These factors (science issue and host appearance) can be altered by content producers to better reach and engage the targeted audiences. The project not only investigates theoretical questions at the intersection of STEM stereotypes and race, but findings related to these experimental conditions will offer practical insight into strategies that can be used by science communication practitioners.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2022 STEM for All Video Showcase Video: Creating more Inclusive STEM Content on YouTube

Team Members

Adam Dylewski, Principal Investigator, PBS Foundation
Sara Yeo, Co-Principal Investigator
Michael Cacciatore, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2120006
Funding Amount: $656,798.00


Access and Inclusion: Black | African American Communities | Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities | Women and Girls
Audience: Adults | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Broadcast Media | Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within InformalScience.org are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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