Changed Perceptions About Science Communication: A Case Study of STEM Graduate Students in Portal to the Public
Montano, Patricia Alejandra
MetadataShow full item record
Current research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) remains largely unavailable to nonscientists. The existing structure of the academic tenure process in universities and STEM graduate training programs further add to the gap as scientists frequently do not have guidance or opportunities to learn effective science communication skills nor pedagogy. Thus, scientists for these and other reasons are sometimes ineffectual communicators of science. Museums endeavor to decrease the separation between public audiences and scientists by bringing scientists into museum spaces and facilitating discussions about current science through exhibits and public programs. The Portal to the Public program at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA provides a useful case to study the effects of face-to-face interactions with the public on the scientists involved in science outreach. Portal to the Public provides scientists with professional development opportunities in science communication, and events to engage in dialogue with public audiences. The study focused on the effects of Portal to the Public on master's and doctoral students, who are developing into future science researchers and science educators. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eleven graduate student scientists who had participated in the program during 2007 to 2010. The results suggest the program positively impacted science communication skills, science teaching skills, and time dedicated to science outreach activities. Surprisingly, Portal to the Public influenced the self-perception of the graduate student scientists in the study. Interest to continue with science outreach in future career stages maybe attributed to positive experiences engaging with public audiences, and positive experiences being mentored by museum educators through the professional development workshops. The study provides evidence that positive science outreach experiences can have a strong impact on emerging scientists' ability to communicate science, and a strong impact on forming an identity as a science communicator.
- Museology