In 2017 the EvalFest team was invited to attend a meeting hosted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to help inform their Public Face of Science Initiative . The meeting was attended by a blend of researchers from science communication and informal STEM learning who helped inform the development of two reports that were designed to share the work of this multi-year initiative by helping to blur the lines between the distinct but similar fields of public engagement with science, science communication, and informal science education. The Perceptions of Science in America report was released in 2018 and the Encountering Science in America report was released earlier this year. We think these reports make a valuable contribution to all three fields that make up their intended audience, and we are thrilled to have EvalFest data included in the Encountering Science in America report.
Science Cafes and Festivals are described on pages 14-15 of the report, as examples of science events. Three of our EvalFest community members are highlighted to share examples festivals – Atlanta, North Carolina, and the Science Learning Tent at the Arlee Celebration. The data from the EvalFest attendee survey are then used to share some of what we have learned about the people who attend festivals. Some of these results reinforce the themes reported in our recent article New, Not Different by showing the festival attendees tend to be middle to upper middle class and that the portion of attendees is diverse, but not yet representative of the U.S. population. The report also notes that one-third of festival-goers do NOT attend with children and shares self-reported data on the impact that festivals can on attendees’ awareness of the science that takes place in their local area.
The content of both reports was also featured in this month’s EvalFest webinar, as we reflected together on how some of the big ideas might apply to our work. For example, we discussed the extent to which festivals design programs based on the definition of public engagement with science versus science communication versus informal science education. Examples were shared for how polling data from the Perceptions of Science in America report might be applied to design programs, train scientists, and make the case for scientist involvement in festivals. We also considered the deficit model in how we train scientists and shared actions steps related to STEM learning ecosystems that might frame sustainability planning.
There are many ways that our community can learn from and apply the reports from the Public Face of Science initiative. We hope that the data we have contributed to the Encountering Science in America report will prove useful to others who aim to do the same.
Image courtesy of the Bay Area Science Festival. Learn more here.