Informal science educators, researchers, and evaluators are interested in directly engaging with the challenges and opportunities of increasing diversity and meaningful intersectionality. The annual meetings of organizations like the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), and the Visitors Studies Association (VSA) have consistently featured sessions relevant to these topics. NSF's goal of broadening participation means there are also project specific efforts currently underway to directly address methods and strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM. The Connected Audience Conference will provide an opportunity to engage in an international conversation that directly leverages this momentum and has the potential to motivate focused collective action among participants producing a greater impact on the field. This travel award supports an enhanced U.S. presence at the Connected Audience International Conference to be held in Vienna, Austria September 14-16, 2017. The premise of the meeting is that the role of museums and other cultural institutions in society is rapidly changing as these institutions strive to become more vital resources and partners in initiatives designed to support science learning, social development and growth in an increasingly science and technology-driven world. The goal for U.S. participation is to support established researchers in this area as well as mid-career professionals. The meeting is comprised of: thought leaders, case study presenters, poster presenters and general participants. Thought leaders will highlight theoretical and practical approaches to broadening participation designed to be provocative and stimulate discussion in the breakout sessions. Case study presenters will be paired to illustrate similarities and/or differences in project design, implementation, or outcomes. Structuring the case studies in this way supports conversations focused on cross-country and cross-institution synergies. The poster session presenters were selected and grouped to encourage productive and comparisons specifically exploring the potential for cross-cutting methods to more effectively engage with audiences. U.S. attendees supported under this travel grant represent those who are engaged in this work actively and positioned to continue making important contributions to the field. International participants represent a range of cultural institutions with the largest proportion attending from science centers and children's museums; however, all participants come because of their interest, concerns and expertise in issues related to equity and greater participation. The structure of the meeting will provide participants with significant time for iterative reflection and active discussion to make each session personally relevant and meaningful. This intentionally allows lots of room for pushback and even outright disagreement with any of the ideas proposed by the thought leaders, case study presenters, and poster session presenters. This award is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences. The Connected Audience conference is designed to significantly contribute to an international conversation about the future of informal science education institutions in the learning ecologies of 21st century citizens. Through exploration of new findings and international cross-pollination of best practices, conference participants will be able to develop improved strategies for increasing and diversifying who participates in informal science education experiences as well as how they participate. A white paper written by the U.S. participants will be used to share findings and insights with the broader informal education field.
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