Inclusive Science Communication Symposium 2019: Building Knowledge and Capacity among Practitioners and Researchers to Foster Inclusive Public Engagement with STEM

August 15th, 2019 - July 31st, 2020 | PROJECT

This project will advance evidence-based efforts to broaden informal STEM engagement via the 2019 Inclusive Science Communication (Inclusive SciComm) Symposium, to be held September 27-29, 2019, at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island. Science communication, defined as any information exchange designed to engage targeted audiences in conversations or activities related to STEM topics, is a rapidly expanding area of research and practice with the potential to significantly increase public participation and sense of belonging in STEM fields. That said, there are few opportunities for its practitioners and scholars to convene around how to make their work both inclusive and equitable, which collectively acknowledge identity, cultural differences, and epistemologies as part of broadening participation. The 2019 symposium will address this gap through panels, workshops, and posters focused on three themes that represent critical and difficult aspects of inclusive science communication: (1) New Languages, Practices, Knowledge, and Research; (2) Changing Systems and Structures through Science Communication; and (3) Social Responsibility and Ethics. Within these themes, sessions will be organized to address major barriers of absence identified by participants in the 2018 Inclusive SciComm Symposium: skills, lessons learned, and knowledge gaps, especially with regard to facilitating difficult conversations across difference (critical dialogue). The symposium also will emphasize the need to integrate research and practice to advance inclusive, equitable, and intersectional approaches to science communication.

There is an urgent need to question assumptions and examine evidence regarding how science communicators and scholars approach efforts to broaden participation, but insufficient data exist on the inputs and outputs of inclusive and equitable practice. Critical dialogue about potentially uncomfortable topics such as privilege, power, or marginalization is an essential tool for inclusive practice and pedagogy. Finding from the 2018 Inclusive SciComm Symposium indicated that many educators and practitioners lack the language, skills, or confidence to initiate this type of dialogue. This project supports the knowledge-building component of the 2019 Inclusive SciComm Symposium to inform future science communication training, practice, and scholarship, by building on preliminary data collected during the 2018 symposium and responding to the need for more robust evaluation of science communication activities. Applying the Theory of Planned Behavior, the project will employ pre/post symposium surveys to investigate how 2019 symposium activities affected knowledge, attitudes, subjective norms, and efficacy (the variables of the Theory of Planned Behavior) of attendees with regard to critical dialogue. Focus groups at the symposium will be used to identify priority research areas related to inclusion, generally, and critical dialogue, specifically, that could advance inclusive science communication practice and beneficial outcomes. The project also will evaluate symposium impacts with regard to 1) attendees' opinions on utility of symposium components for advancing inclusive science communication and 2) how attendees' experience and response orientations inform their approaches to difficult science communication conversations. Qualitative data from the surveys and focus groups will be thematically coded using constant comparison.

This project will have strategic impact for inclusive science communication practice and, therefore, for informal learning and public engagement with STEM topics. Increasing awareness and effective implementation of critical dialogue by science communicators and trainers should enhance both for ethical engagement of traditionally under-represented and marginalized groups and should foster diverse types of public participation in societal debates about scientific issues. The outcomes of this research will benefit and link the complementary, but often siloed, fields of informal science learning and science communication. A final report will summarize research findings and offer specific next steps to advance inclusive science communication practice and research, especially with regard to fostering critical dialogue. The report will be posted on and distributed via a national network of partners working in informal science education, science communication, and public engagement.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which supports innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of learning settings.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Inclusive SciComm 2019 Knowledge-Building Report
Inclusive Science Communication Starter Kit

Team Members

Sunshine Menezes, Principal Investigator, University of Rhode Island
Hollie Smith, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 1940463
Funding Amount: $73,164


Audience: Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Conferences | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks