included special editions on informal science learning, and the journal Science Education added an informal learning section. New journals, such as Public Understanding of Science and Science Communication, have arisen as well. Furthermore, research and evaluations of informal science learning environments have become more available through websites, such as informalscience.org; research agenda-setting events have transpired in an attempt to explore and coordinate the research and evaluations (Royal Society, 1985; Irwin and Wynne, 1996); and NSF has published a framework for assessing their impact (Friedman, 2008).
With the growth of interest in science learning in informal environments and the diversification of venues, practitioners, and researchers, the literature has developed in a fractured and uneven manner. Several factors appear to contribute to the divergent trajectories of the research. First, the relationship between schools and informal environments for science learning has been unclear and contested, serving as an impediment to integration of what is understood about learning across these settings. In other words, research on schools rarely builds on findings from research in informal settings and vice versa.
Second, the goals of informal environments for science learning are multiple. Designed environments have historically focused on what attracts an audience and keeps it engaged, but experiences are not often framed in terms of learning (Commission on Museums for a New Century, 1984; Rockman Et Al, 2007). After-school programs were traditionally designed with goals that often focused on providing a safe and healthy environment for young children during the hours after school. The goals of these programs have been driven by the institutions that have traditionally supported them, and only recently has large support come from sources that are increasingly concerned with learning outcomes.
Third, since many fields of inquiry are invested in this work, the research base reflects a diversity of interests, questions, and methods from several loosely related fields. Historical sociological studies of the relationship between science and the public have largely focused on institutional issues, again without attention to learning. Anthropology and psychology tend to explore learning, but not educational design. Much of the empirical evidence on museums, zoos, libraries, media, and programs has emerged from visitor studies and may include learning outcomes, demographic profiles, and analysis of visitor behavior. Evaluations typically illustrate how a specific program, broadcast, or exhibit supports learning. The theoretical underpinnings of this work may not be explicit, and general implications for informal science education are often hard to discern. In addition educators, researchers, and policy makers who are accustomed to research on classroom settings may tend to rely on measures of learning that are not appropriate for informal