IN INFORMAL ENVIRONMENTS
Committee on Communicating Chemistry in Informal Settings
Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Board on Science Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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This activity was supported by Grant No. 1238273 from the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-37752-2
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-37752-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016946891
Digital Object Identifier: 10.17226/21790
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Copyright 2016 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Effective Chemistry Communication in Informal Environments. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21790.
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COMMITTEE ON COMMUNICATING CHEMISTRY IN INFORMAL SETTINGS
MARK A. RATNER, NAS, Northwestern University
DAVID A. UCKO, Museums+more LLC
LAWRENCE BELL, Museum of Science, Boston
DIANE BUNCE, The Catholic University of America
JULIA Y. CHAN, University of Texas at Dallas
LUIS ECHEGOYEN, University of Texas at El Paso
JOSEPH S. FRANCISCO, NAS, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
MARY M. KIRCHHOFF, American Chemical Society
BRUCE V. LEWENSTEIN, Cornell University
MICHAEL STIEFF, University of Illinois at Chicago
KATHRYN J. HUGHES, Project Director, Senior Program Officer, Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology (until December 2016)
KEEGAN SAWYER, Project Director, Program Officer, Board on Life Sciences
CAMLY TRAN, Associate Program Officer, Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology
NATALIE NIELSEN, Board Director, Board on Technology and Assessment (until January 2014)
TERESA FRYBERGER, Board Director, Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology
HEIDI SCHWEINGRUBER, Board Director, Board on Science Education
BOARD ON CHEMICAL SCIENCES AND TECHNOLOGY
DAVID BEM, PPG Industries
DAVID WALT, NAE, Tufts University
HÉCTOR D. ABRUÑA, Cornell University
JOEL C. BARRISH, Bristol-Myers Squibb
MARK A. BARTEAU, NAE, University of Michigan
JOAN BRENNECKE, NAE, University of Notre Dame
MICHELLE V. BUCHANAN, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
DAVID W. CHRISTIANSON, University of Pennsylvania
JENNIFER SINCLAIR CURTIS, University of California, Davis
RICHARD EISENBERG, NAS, University of Rochester
SAMUEL H. GELLMAN, NAS, University of Wisconsin–Madison
SHARON C. GLOTZER, NAS, University of Michigan
MIRIAM E. JOHN, Sandia National Laboratories (retired)
FRANCES S. LIGLER, NAE, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University
SANDER G. MILLS, Merck Research Laboratories (retired)
JOSEPH B. POWELL, Shell
PETER J. ROSSKY, NAS, Rice University
TIMOTHY SWAGER, NAS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
TERESA FRYBERGER, Director
DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN, Senior Program Officer
CAMLY TRAN, Associate Program Officer
CLAIRE BALLWEG, Program Coordinator
BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION
ADAM GAMORAN, William T. Grant Foundation
GEORGE BOGGS, Palomar College (emeritus)
MELANIE COOPER, Michigan State University
RODOLFO DIRZO, NAS, Stanford University
JACQUELYNNE ECCLES, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
JOSEPH FRANCISCO, NAS, Department of Chemistry, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
MARGARET A. HONEY, New York Hall of Science
MATTHEW KREHBIEL, Achieve, Inc.
MICHAEL LACH, University of Chicago Urban Education Institute
LYNN LIBEN, Pennsylvania State University
CATHY MANDUCA, Carleton College
JOHN MATHER, NAS, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
BRIAN REISER, Northwestern University
MARSHALL “MIKE” SMITH, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
ROBERTA TANNER, Loveland High School (retired)
SUZANNE WILSON, University of Connecticut
YU XIE, NAS, Princeton University
HEIDI SCHWEINGRUBER, Director
KERRY BRENNER, Senior Program Officer
MARGARET HILTON, Senior Program Officer
KENNE DIBNER, Program Officer
AMY STEPHENS, Program Officer
MATTHEW LAMMERS, Program Coordinator
MIRIAM SCHEIBER, Program Assistant
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The committee’s report seeks to enhance the effectiveness of public communication by chemists at activities that foster engagement and learning outside the classroom setting. We build on two trends: One is the interest shown by many chemists in sharing their knowledge and experience with the public through activities such as National Chemistry Week, science festivals, museum exhibits or events, science cafés, and online media. The second is the growing research on science communication, informal learning, and chemistry education. Much of that research has been synthesized in previous National Research Council reports, including Learning Science in Informal Environments, Discipline-Based Education Research, and How People Learn, as well as two Sackler Colloquia on The Science of Science Communication and the Chemical Sciences Roundtable’s Chemistry in Primetime and Online. For the first time, the experiences of these professional communities and the research bases that support their work have been integrated for the development of practical tools.
Chemistry plays critical roles in our daily lives, community issues, national policy, and global events. That everyday relevance presents opportunities for interaction with members of the public who may not be familiar with chemistry or chemical concepts. Evidence-based communication and engagement activities offer the potential to address the situation. For students, informal learning experiences can stimulate greater interest in chemistry, complementing and enhancing the subject as presented within the limitations of the classroom. For adults, such experiences may help them become more sophisticated about chemistry and its ubiquitous role in the world around us.
For the chemistry community, we hope that this report will provide insights for thinking about communication and engagement. It offers guidance based on evidence-based practices for strengthening the effectiveness of activities, such as placing greater focus on the needs and interests of the participants, both in planning and implementation.
For informal learning professionals and science communicators, we hope the report will provide insight from key research findings in the chemical education literature that may be transferable to addressing members of the public and may suggest directions for future research. In addition, this report may encourage more chemists and chemistry-related profes-
sionals to partner with science centers and similar organizations to develop and implement engaging chemistry experiences for children and for adults. Such collaborative efforts could be significantly enhanced by support from chemistry-based professional organizations and corporations.
Although this report focuses specifically on chemistry, the communication strategies could be applied more generally and serve as a model for other disciplines. We hope that professionals in those disciplines will recognize the value of applying effective practices of informal learning and science communication, and of partnering with organizations experienced in engaging with the public.
On behalf of the committee, we would like to thank all those who took the time to share their knowledge and expertise through participation in the meetings, the landscape study, and other data-gathering methods. Special thanks go to the committee members themselves and the Academies program staff who made this report possible.
Mark Ratner and David Ucko, Co-Chairs
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
James Bell, Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education
John Besley, Michigan State University
Donna Blackmond, Scripps University
Rick Borchelt, U.S. Department of Energy
Declan Fahy, Dublin City University
John Groves, Princeton University
Carlos Gutierrez, California State University, Los Angeles
Joseph Krajcik, Michigan State University
Tiffany Lohwater, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Stephen Palacios, Added Value Cheskin
Elsa Reichmanis, Georgia Institute of Technology
Nancy Songer, Drexel University
Lawrence Yeung, Rice University
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the report’s conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before the release. The review of this report was overseen
by May Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and R. Stephen Berry, University of Chicago. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.