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Science outreach, also called Education and Public Outreach (EPO or E/PO) or simply Public outreach, is an umbrella term for a variety of activities by research institutes, universities, and institutions such as science museums, aimed at promoting public awareness (and understanding) of science and making informal contributions to science education.
- 1 Scope and history
- 2 Examples of science outreach activities
- 3 Awards
- 4 See also
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
- 7 References
Scope and history
While there have always been individual scientists interested in educating the public, science outreach has recently become more organized. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) now requires all of its projects to organize suitable outreach activities. Also working to inform the public are organizations such as Communicating Astronomy to the Public and Washington Declaration on Communicating Astronomy to the Public that organize conferences for the public on science issues and make efforts to put outreach on a more general institutional footing.
Recently, an increasing number of projects have been hiring designated outreach scientists (part-time or full-time) that handle public relations on for their project. There are also specialized outreach providers such as the Education branch of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado and the Education and Public Outreach Group at Sonoma State University which offer to organize a project's outreach activities on a contractual basis.
Examples of science outreach activities
Science outreach can take on a variety of forms.
Public talks can be part of a lecture series, given at a science festival or in cooperation with a special interest group such as a local astronomy club. Public presentations can have a variety of formats, including straightforward lecture formats with or without experimental demonstrations, guided live interviews, and discussions with several participants and a moderator. There are also less formal are initiatives such as Café Scientifique, in which a café or bar is the venue for regular meetings involving guest scientists that come to talk about their work or take part in discussions with members of the public.
Visiting primary and secondary schools
School students and teachers are an important target group for science outreach. Outreach activities can include scientists visiting schools, giving talks at assemblies, discussions with students, or participation in events such as career fairs and science and technology camps. One organization that focuses on this kind of science outreach is Robogals. Many universities also have science outreach programs that are dedicated to building relationships between high school students, university scientists, and K-12 teachers. A few of the most prominent university science outreach programs include Carolina Science Outreach, the Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science, the Rockefeller University Science Outreach Program, and the Stanford University Office of Science Outreach. Using Canada as an example, it has been estimated that with sufficient organization, every classroom from kindergarten through graduation could in practice receive a visit from one or more scientists annually with participation from only 10-15% of the scientific enterprise.
Workshops/schools for teachers and/or students
Inviting groups of school students to a research institution for a workshop is another popular form of outreach. Formats range from a one-day visit to more involved week-long events such as Perimeter Institute's International Summer School for Young Physicists (two-week-long programs for a total of a hundred Canadian and international students from grade 11).
Another method of science outreach invites school teachers to participate in workshops where they are able to learn effective strategies to engage students in science. This approach has was especially embraced by the Canadian Space Agency which held an annual "Space Educators" conference up until 2012 to provides teachers with access to resources to educate their students in space-related science.
Supporting science fairs and similar events
Besides organizing independent events, many outreach organizations sponsor existing events that promote sciences awareness. A notable examples are science fairs, public science events in which working scientists can participate both as judges and as sponsors of student projects.
A number of awards honor commitment to science outreach. Prominent examples are:
- Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology (AAAS)
- Descartes Prize for Excellence in Science Communication (European Commission)
- Michael Faraday Prize for communicating science to a UK audience (Royal Society)
- Communicator award (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)
- Synapse Mentorship Awards often given for exceptional contributions to science outreach (Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
Other prizes reward outreach work concerning specific subjects, such as:
- Nicholson Medal for Human Outreach (American Physical Society)
- Charles A. Black Award for exemplary contributions to public understanding of food and agricultural science
- Engaging the Clutch of the Science Communication Continuum – Shifting Science Outreach into High Gear
- Stanford University Science Outreach Office – links to outreach programs for teachers, students, and the general public
- Education/Outreach resources at the Space Science Institute
- Scientists in education
- NASA Science
- Science for All Americans (from the AAAS)
- Sonoma State University E/PO group
- Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal
- International Year of Astronomy 2009
- Vanderbilt University Center for Science Outreach
- Let's Talk Science
- Geobulletin A collection of geoscientific blogs
- "New Book Showcases ESO Images". ESO Announcements. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
- "The RI Christmas Lectures (Royal Institution Website)".
- "Carolina Science Outreach".
- "Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science".
- "Rockefeller University Science Outreach Program".
- "Stanford University Office of Science Outreach".
- Bechara J. Saab, "Engaging the Clutch of the Science Communication Continuum – Shifting Science Outreach into High Gear", Hypothesis Volume 8 Issue 1 (September 2010).
- "Canadian Space Agency Educators Resources".