Face-to-face conversations between scientists and public audiences in an informal learning environment provide a valuable opportunity to support public engagement with scientific research. These types of experiences have significant benefits for members of the public and for scientists. For public audiences, interacting face-to-face with a scientist can expand awareness of the range of careers in science, spark new questions about scientific topics, and increase interest in learning more about the scientist’s topic (Tisdal, 2011; Ong, 2014). Scientists, too, are positively impacted by this type of public engagement (Storksdieck et al., 2017). Scientists who participate in public engagement training and programs report that their pedagogical ILR September/October 2019 - 4 and communication ability and skills improve and that the experience is fun and rewarding (Tisdal, 2011; Ong, 2014). However, in-person connections between scientists and public audiences are not always a feasible programming option. Scientists often live in urban areas, where universities, research centers, and private labs are located, while a large segment of the U.S. population lives in more rural locations (Health Resources & Services Administration, 2018). Typically, neither scientists nor individuals from rural communities have the time or resources to travel long distances to participate in programs. Virtual programming—in which a scientist is connected to public audiences who are geographically remote through a video-conferencing platform—may be able to help close this gap. As part of the NASA@ My Library project, Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington implemented a pilot to test the feasibility and potential outcomes of one approach to virtual programming by developing and hosting programs for patrons featuring a virtual connection to a scientist at geographically remote public libraries. Central to this approach were collaborations between informal science learning (ISL) organizations and public libraries. The pilot project sought to leverage the strengths and experiences of each of these two partner-types. Together, ISLs and public libraries worked to design, coordinate, and facilitate the virtual programs.
If you would like to edit a resource, please email us to submit your request.