What’s New on InformalScience.org?

October 11th, 2013

With the redesign and re-launch of InformalScience.org in May 2013, the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE) created a “one-stop shop” of resources for informal science education (ISE) professionals–people who are conducting or wishing to conduct ISE activities, research or evaluation, or to collaborate with others who are. The site builds on several years of work by CAISE to strengthen and advance the field of professional ISE and its infrastructure. If you are a new visitor, we hope you will take a moment to visit the Welcome post, where you will learn how to join, complete your profile, and navigate the different areas of the site. If you were a member of the old InformalScience.org website, we thank you for making the transition to our new site. The project, research, and evaluation materials that you have submitted to the old site will be made available on the new site. To better connect you with the work that you have submitted, we ask that you take a moment to create a new profile. It takes just a few minutes, and you can always come back to the site later to fill it out and connect it with your work.

What’s New?

Much has has been added to InformalScience.org since our beta launch last May. We thank the informal science education community for your support– more than 850 of you have joined, and many of you have completed your profiles. As users join, they share information about their experience, affiliations, and interests that can be searched in the Member Directory to find new collaborators and partners. We hope that new InformalScience.org will support connection and collaboration across different ISE sectors, and support the growth of a community of ISE stakeholders. Speaking of Community, over a dozen special interest groups have formed on the site. These groups serve a variety of purposes–some have been created to facilitate the development of a particular project or initiative, while some exist as a place for conversation. You can request to join these groups, or start one of your own. You must be a member of the site and logged in to view any group content. CAISE has started a number of groups to support convenings on our different initiatives, including:

  • The CAISE Practice-and-Research Initiative Group, where you can find the results of CAISE work around creating a “research roadmap” for ISE, among other activities.
  • The CAISE Evaluation In ISE Convening Group, which documents outcomes from a convening focused on building capacity for evaluation in ISE.

As the site member base has grown, more content has been made available–both CAISE-generated and user-submitted. The Perspectives blog regularly publishes posts in topics relevant to ISE, including Spotlights of ISE projects and a series on Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and ISE research. Regular news posts are aggregated in the monthly newsletter to share the latest developments in the ISE field. If you regularly visit the site, you may notice that the front page has slightly different content every day in the Recently Added Resources section. Resources are constantly being added–both new, user-submitted content, as well as resources that have been moved over from the old informalscience.org. These resources are a part of the Informal Commons, a growing digital collection of resources that can be searched directly from the InformalScience.org site (just select “Informal Commons” from the drop-down menu in the search function). Since the site launch, the collection searchable via the Informal Commons on InformalScience.org has grown to include over 8,000 new project, evaluation, research and reference, and instructional resources. All of these submissions are carefully reviewed by a cataloguer, who ensures that the appropriate information about each record–called metadata–has been applied. The metadata can be used to filter your searches, leading you to the most relevant and helpful results. You can explore all of the available filters by viewing the full catalogue of resources and selecting them from the bars on the left side of the page. If you’re looking for more specific resources, CAISE has curated lists to help users learn more about informal science education generally. We have also created a space for STEM-based professionals, including STEM researchers and their education & public outreach officers, to learn more about ISE. [NOTE: this is where we would add something about the PI meeting stuff if it goes live before this post] You can also find the latest information and resources from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, including the newest solicitation. As more resources for putting together a successful AISL proposal become available, we will catalogue them in the InfomralScience.org resource collection and list them on the NSF AISL page.

What’s Next?

Over the coming months, CAISE will continue to catalogue new resources in the digital collection, publish new blog posts, share news and events from the ISE field, and support the growth of special interest groups. Activities in other CAISE initiatives will make use of the site’s infrastructure, and may influence changes made to the site and the creation of new site resources. For example, in Fall 2013, CAISE will be convening a group of STEM-based professionals and ISE stakeholders to discuss improvements to the metadata that may make search results more useful for STEM researchers who want to do ISE as a part of their outreach. Earlier in the Fall, CAISE convened the Infrastructure Coordination Roundtable (ICR), a group made up of primarily NSF AISL-funded projects who have created and continue to support websites that that update and disseminate informal STEM education materials through the Informal Commons. The group has spent the last few years establishing the metadata standard that is used in search on the Informal Commons, and will continue to work with CAISE to make changes and improvements to the site. CAISE is also working with our evaluators at Inverness Research to gather feedback on site user experience, which will inform future site developments.

Still Have Questions?

We would be happy to hear from you–just email us at caise@informalscience.org, or reach out to one of our staff directly. Thank you for being a part of this growing community–we look forward to connecting with you, online and off!