Resources and Current Research Projects that Engage Scientists

STEM Ambassador 3 square

June 26th, 2019

Inspired by the newly announced Center for Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS), which aims to build capacity, advance scholarship, grow partnerships, and provide resources for researchers to demonstrate the impact of research in their communities and society, CAISE pulled together a selection of 16 current, relevant projects, many of which are funded through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program.

Before you dive in, here are some related resources on

  • Our “Science Communication, Public Engagement, and Outreach” webpage provides a roundup of major, relevant reports in the informal STEM education (ISE) and science communication fields, as well as professional resources. If you know a STEM researcher, science communicator, or other science engagement professional who wants to learn more about the ISE field, send them here!

  • Starting in 2018, CAISE’s annual Year in Informal STEM Education covers key science communication and broader impacts papers and events.​

Current NSF AISL Projects that Engage Scientists in Informal STEM Education

Building Capacity for Co-Created Public Engagement with Science

  • This project at the Museum of Science, Boston, is using “deliberative dialogues” in science museums to help reduce the polarization around socio-scientific issues, give people a greater voice in science, and address barriers that disconnect scientists from the public. Award #1811118.

Changemakers: Advancing Community Science Literacy

  • The New England Aquarium and the Aquarium of the Pacific are working to bring together scientific expertise and community organizations to advance scientific ways of problem-solving for community leaders and functional science literacy (information and skills people can use in their daily lives) among their service populations. Award #1713428.

Convergent Learning from Divergent Perspectives: Interdisciplinary Collaborations in Informal Science Communication

  • Multiple ISE institutions in Columbus, Ohio, are working to develop a collaborative program to connect and prepare researchers from divergent disciplines to communicate science to publics of all ages in three distinct informal environments: pop-ups at community events, experiential learning with problem-solving events for youth, and presentations at a science museum. Award #1811119.

Embedding Public Engagement with Science at Long-Term Ecological Research Sites

  • Researchers from five institutions are working to embed public engagement with science into the cultures and practices of two long-term ecological research sites: the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire and the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts. Awards #1713197, 1713204, 1713219, 1713222, 1713307.

FOSSIL—Fostering Opportunities for Synergistic STEM with Informal Learners

  • This project from the University of Florida proposes to derive and develop a network and community of practice among amateur and professional paleontologists across the country. Award #1322725.

Grounding Institutional Partnerships in Structures for Broader Impacts Design

  • This project builds on the successful Portal to the Public framework, bringing together the expertise and resources of higher education institutions and informal science institutions around the shared mission of engaging the public in current STEM research. Awards #1610039, 1612808, 1612810.

Effective Environmental Workshop Facilitation and Local Community Action

  • This collaborative project between EcoAdapt and Virginia Tech, with participants from the National Parks Conservation Association, the Desert Research Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and others, is examining how informal, place-based collaborative learning can support local communities’ planning processes related to current environmental changes. Awards #1810851, 1811534.

Interpreters and Scientists Working on Our Parks (iSWOOP)

  • This project equips National Park Service interpretive rangers with visualizations and interactive approaches for communicating science in natural learning spaces. Awards #1514776, 1514766.

Multi-Site Public Engagement with Science—Synthetic Biology

  • Through a collaboration between the Museum of Science, Boston, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this project created conversations in science museums among scientists, engineers, and public audiences about the emerging research field of synthetic biology. Award #1421179.

On-the-Spot Assessment to Improve Scientist Engagement with the Public

  • The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is developing and testing a model for audience assessment that STEM professionals can use during their public engagement efforts. Award #1811022.

Partnerships to Strengthen and Diversify Broader Impacts Activities

  • This project, led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Washington, is building on the successful Portal to the Public framework, bringing together the expertise and resources of higher education and ISE institutions around the shared mission of engaging public audiences in current STEM research and meets NSF’s Broader Impacts criterion. Awards #1610693, 1611978.

Portal to the Public: Expanding the National Network

  • The successful, NSF-funded Portal to the Public model, in which researchers are trained to communicate about their research and interact with the general public at informal science education institutions, is being implemented around the country. Award #1224129.

Research and Development on Understanding STEM Identity Using Live Cultural Experiences

  • Guerilla Science is creating unique opportunities for audiences to experience science in unorthodox ways, to connect with audiences at these events, and to help scientists engage audiences they do not normally reach. Award #1612719.

Science Cafés: Modeling and Assessing a Structured Adult Informal Science Education Program

  • Virginia Commonwealth University is producing four annual public lecture events, and working with a professional educational evaluation expert to develop an appropriate assessment tool for adult learners in the structured informal learning environment of a science cafĂ©. Award #1611953.

The STEM Ambassador Program: A Scientist-Driven Public Engagement Model

  • This project at the University of Utah is creating pathways for scientists to interact with community groups that face challenges accessing science education but have interests or backgrounds that are congruent with their research topics. Award #1514494.

Transforming Students’ Partnerships with Scientists Through Cogenerative Dialogues

  • This research project at the University of Texas at El Paso implemented and documented the impact of cogenerative dialogues on youth learning and youth–scientist interactions as part of the “Work with a Scientist Program.” Award #1322600.

Pictured above: A scientist in the University of Utah’s STEM Ambassador program discusses bird identification and his ornithology research with outdoor recreation guide