Welcome to Informalscience.org


May 27th, 2013

Welcome to the new informalscience.org. We’re glad you’re here!

This site is a resource for the informal science education (ISE) field, for people who are conducting or wishing to conduct, ISE activities, research or evaluation, or to collaborate with others who are. It is the culmination of several years of work by the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE). We have been facilitating connections and sharing resources among professionals across the field of informal science education (ISE), and with the re-launch of informalscience.org we have strengthened the online infrastructure that supports our vibrant community. We hope you will think of the site as a “one-stop shop” for informal science education. Here we’ve merged several related sites, developed custom search options, created new tools to support interest groups, and added new ways to find others with our member directory. You can get started by creating your profile, or read on to see some examples of what can be done with the site.

Members of the old Informalscience.org website

Thank you! For many years our members have helped collect and share informal science education projects, evaluation reports, research and reference materials. These projects and evaluation reports have been migrated to this new site. Research products, such as peer-reviewed journal article citations, that were contributed to informalscience.org are being re-tagged and cataloged on an ongoing basis.
We understand that many members have invested time into creating their profiles on the old site. Because we re-developed the site from the ground up, and made a number of key changes to the architecture to improve functionality and sustainability, we were unable to migrate profiles in a cost-effective way. It only takes a few moments to start your profile and a few clicks to search for your work and associate it.

As a registered user you will have a dashboard that aggregates: all site activities, options to receive notifications of updated content, and easy ways to manage your profile. You don’t need to complete your full profile to sign up; please just take a moment to start, you may return later to complete it by linking up your work, adding your bio and photo, and selecting your interests. Your profile will be a great tool for making matches with potential professional collaborators.

We want to help make this a smooth transition for you. If you contributed in the past and are unable to find your records or need assistance linking records to your profile, please contact us at caise@informalscience.org.

What you can do with the new informalscience.org?

If you have a general interest in STEM education

Find out how the professional informal science education field engages public audiences in many different places and through a wide variety of media — among them, film and broadcast media, science centers and museums, zoos and aquariums, botanical gardens and nature centers, digital media and gaming, science journalism, and youth, community, and after-school programs. We invite you to browse through the project descriptions, evaluation reports and instruments, research results, and tangible evidence of the impact and effectiveness of informal learning. See the “About CAISE” sections to learn who we are, and to see resources we’ve curated to help with the development of funding proposals. For those new to ISE, find out more about the field through our “Resources” page and learn about our funder, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) Program.

If you’ve recently joined the field or are working on a grant proposal

Start by creating your member profile, then look for related work and colleagues who can help. Check out project examples, draw on evaluation reports, search research and reference materials, view resources we’ve collected for proposers, and find funding deadlines and upcoming events. When you are developing a proposal or looking for strategies and places to disseminate results, you’ll have access to resources such as the ISE Evidence Wiki and the Principal Investigator’s Guide: Managing Evaluation in Informal STEM Education Projects.

If you’re leading or participating an informal STEM education project

We invite you to create a page on this site for projects funded through federal sources or private foundations, and keep your project description and findings up to date by adding team members, updating the content with new developments, contributing images, linking to your website, sharing project products, and attaching related work such as papers and articles. You can also initiate and join interest groups, search for members, communicate your outcomes and findings, and participate in online discussions and events via our calendar.

If you’re a Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI

Data from National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning program (formerly Informal Science Education) projects is automatically added to this database. If you had recently updated your project on the old informalscience.org site, that updated description has been migrated. Curate your project page by linking team members, updating descriptions, uploading evaluation reports, and sharing project products. Help others find you and learn about your work by connecting projects with your new profile.

If you’re an Evaluator

We hope you will add front-end, formative, remedial, and/or summative evaluations of your projects and contribute evidence of impact summaries to the ISE Evidence Wiki. You may also add instruments, protocols, IRB forms, and other information to represent your work and disseminate evaluation results to the community. If you’ve contributed evaluation reports in the past, those evaluation reports are being migrated to the new site, and the project linkages have been preserved. Refer clients to the Principal Investigator’s Guide: Managing Evaluation in Informal STEM Education Projects for more information on how evaluation can be integrated to support their project development from start to finish.

If you’re a Researcher

Informalscience.org includes citations from peer-reviewed articles and reference materials. Disseminate results of your work by contributing to our growing repository of knowledge about STEM learning in informal environments by submitting research and reference citations or adding to wiki articles, and add your profile so that new potential collaborators may find you. Find opportunities to apply for funding and to disseminate your work at the events posted on our calendar. Let people know about what you are working on currently, what’s hot, and what you are planning.

If you’re a Program Officer

Search and view project examples to help characterize your portfolio and maintain an overview of the ISE field writ large, refer potential PIs to our resources, and consider ways to disseminate work and resources produced by your funding agency’s investments via informalscience.org. We welcome program officers from federal agencies and private foundations to contact us and to consider ways to connect and disseminate work through informalscience.org. If you’re here for some other reason, thanks for joining us! Please take a look around and let us know if we can be of assistance.

Call on the CAISE staff for support. We welcome your questions and comments.

Jamie Bell / Kalie Sacco / Trevor Nesbit 

Pictured left to right, Jamie Bell, Project Director and PI, Kalie Sacco, Program Manager, Trevor Nesbit, Web Strategist.

Many thanks to our co-PIs, Kevin Crowley, Kirsten Ellenbogen, John Falk, and Sue Ellen McCann; to project contributors from the U.C. Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science and Ideum; Inverness Research; to our funder, The National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program; and to all of our advisors and colleagues who have helped make the renewal of informalscience.org possible.

Looking under the hood

Informalscience.org pulls together resources contributed by colleagues in the ISE field and from projects represented by the CAISE-convened Infrastructure Coordination Roundtable (ICR). The ICR has helped organize and connect multiple databases of research briefs, instructional materials, research and evaluation instruments, exhibit case studies and reviews, citizen science toolkits, open source software, and reference materials. The ICR is primarily composed of National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program principal investigators and staff who have created and continue to support websites that update and disseminate informal STEM education-related materials. The CAISE re-launch of informalscience.org will bring information from many websites under one tent: informalscience.org, iseevidencewiki.org, caise.insci.org, and caiseconveningwiki.org. We also aggregate data in a single search from howtosmile.org, research2practice.org, citizenscience.org, ExhibitFiles.org, ASTC’s Dimensions magazine, NISEnet.org, NAME-amm.org, OpenExhibits.org, PearWeb.org (evaluation instruments and products), and visitorstudies.org. We’ve leveraged the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) software and a metadata framework to enable you to search, browse, and filter project descriptions; evaluation reports and instruments; research reports, briefs, and peer-reviewed articles; or wiki articles and literature reviews documenting project impact.

The Evolution of informalscience.org

The University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out of School Environments (UPCLOSE) established informalscience.org in 2006 with support from the National Science Foundation. UPCLOSE grew the site from the Museum Learning Collaborative, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) from 1997-2002, into a popular hub for informal STEM learning professionals. The CAISE team recently assumed management of the informalscience.org website. We have built on the work of UPCLOSE by creating a single destination for ISE professionals to share ideas, news, and projects related to informal STEM learning. We hope you enjoy the new informalscience.org and find it useful in your work. Please feel free to contact us with questions, whenever they arise. Jamie Bell Kalie Sacco Trevor Nesbit