About the initiative | GOALS & VISION

  Former NBA cheerleader Darlene  Cavalier founded Science Cheerleader change the tone of science and science policy through participation and community dialogue. Photo: James Blakey

Former NBA cheerleader Darlene Cavalier founded Science Cheerleader change the tone of science and science policy through participation and community dialogue. Photo: James Blakey

The Evolving Culture of Science Engagement initiative is an attempt to shed new light on how public engagement with science works in the 21st century. By exploring science engagement as a cultural phenomenon, we hope to spark a new conversation and frame a contemporary agenda for research and experimentation, all with the goal of updating our collective understanding—the concepts and frameworks we use in science communication, informal education, funding, policy, and evaluation—in light of the dazzling variety of innovations cropping up all around the engagement landscape.

We developed the initiative in part because we were excited about those innovations and sensed that they represented some important departures—in some cases, even radical breaks—with the 20th century, and in part because we suspected that the science engagement field(s) might still be working with a picture of success based on the very assumptions that the emerging sensibilities, modes, and settings of public science have begun to challenge. Until we understand those new assumptions and sensibilities, we can’t hope to understand why adult non-experts choose to engage with science or how they—and their families, communities and society at large—are affected as a result. Nor can we hope to leverage and ‘scale’ those new experiences to foster larger and more diverse audiences for science.

In service to those broad goals, we hope the initiative will:

  1. Generate new knowledge about how public science engagement is changing and how greater relevance and wider participation might be achieved;
     

  2. Pay attention to the cultural mechanisms and dimensions of public science engagement, especially dimensions on which change seems to be occurring not only in science but in the wider culture, as well;
     

  3. Identify a range of empirical research questions about the motivations, experiences, and outcomes of public science engagement, framing a new agenda for research and experimentation;
     

  4. Create a new, multidisciplinary network of practitioners, researchers, theorists, and funders  who share an interest in understanding and furthering science engagement but normally work in separate professional or academic communities and rarely collaborate;
     

  5. Inform the work of other initiatives and programs underway around the US, UK, and elsewhere.

Read about the structure and upcoming phases of the initiative.