Science centres and museums

01/04/2019

The making and tinkering movement has become increasingly mainstream over the past decade, pioneered in part through the popularity of magazines like `Make', events such as Maker Faire and DIY websites including `Instructables'. Science centres and museums have been developing their own ideas, notably the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium. In this commentary piece, we reflect on why this movement has a strong appeal for the Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne and why we are in the process of developing a new making and tinkering space to help us enact our centre's vision to `Enrich lives through science'.

05/02/2019

Meaningful science engagement beyond one-way outreach is needed to encourage science-based decision making. This pilot study aimed to instigate dialogue and deliberation concerning climate change and public health. Feedback from science café participants was used to design a panel-based museum exhibit that asked visitors to make action plans concerning such issues. Using intercept interviews and visitor comment card data, we found that visitors developed general or highly individualistic action plans to address these issues. Results suggest that employing participatory design methods when developing controversial socio-scientific exhibits can aid engagement. We conclude by recommending participatory strategies for implementing two-way science communication.

14/12/2018

This paper presents the first study ever conducted on the profile of visitors to the Museum of Human Evolution of Burgos (Spain), which exhibits the finds of the Atapuerca archaeo-paleontological sites. The research was guided by the principles of public communication of science and the methodology of the studies on museum visitors. The analysis reveals a positive perception; the Museum is associated with the sites and they are valued as cultural heritage. Complaints are very limited but useful to produce a set of recommendations to further improve the exhibition. In addition, the findings are placed in the context of similar research carried out at other museums in Spain.

19/09/2018

We review how the Wellcome Collection exhibition ‘Teeth’ enacts meanings from an educational anthropology and Science and Technology Studies perspective. The exhibition tells the history of dental science. It starts with accounts of the painful procedures and social inequalities of early oral healthcare. As it moves towards the present day it shows improved scientific knowledge, tools and public health promotion, and closes with current sophisticated technologies and practices. However it underrepresents contemporary social inequalities. We conclude that science communication exhibition curators should strive to represent the problems of today as well as those of the past.

24/07/2018

World’s Fairs and scientific-technological theme parks have been
propitious places for the communication of science and technology through
modernity. This work addresses the issue of the construction of public
discourse about the future within these sites, as well as the changing role
attributed to science and technology as mediators in the relationships
between nature and society. In both fairs and parks, science and
technology play a leading role in the construction of the discourse about
the desirable and achievable future. The practices of science
communication and technology have specific forms, strategies and
objectives, depending on the purposes of the discourse enunciators at
different historical moments. This is exemplified through two cases: the
1939 New York World’s Fair and the EPCOT center in the U.S.

04/07/2018

Mediators engage in peer-to-peer conversations with young adults visiting the art and science exhibitions at Science Gallery Dublin. Previous evaluation and anecdotal reports show that the interdisciplinary nature of these conversations fosters self-confidence and interest in academic careers. We used the Most Significant Change methodology to evaluate if working as a Mediator has an impact beyond these domains. The results show that civic engagement, interest in social justice and emotional empathy are domains of significant personal change strongly associated with the development of self-confidence and interpersonal skills.

07/05/2018

This meta-article aims to explore the role of uncertainty in knowing in informal science learning contexts. Subjects (N=2591) were sixth-graders from four countries. In addition to the correct and incorrect questionnaire alternatives, there was a "don't know" option to choose if uncertain of the answer. The unique path-analysis finding showed that the role of motivation was uniformly positive on correct and negative on uncertainty of answers. In all contexts the number of correct answers increased, incorrect and uncertain answers decreased. Interestingly, although there was no more difference in knowledge pro boys after the intervention, the girls were still more uncertain.

12/09/2017

To unravel how science museums can prepare citizens for reflection on research and innovation, this study evaluates a playful exhibit prototype, Opinion Lab (OL). The OL made children and parents reflect on synthetic biology (SB), supported by conversation exercises, citizen-narratives, and futuristic scenarios. We analysed 26 OL test sessions performed in NEMO science museum Amsterdam. The prototype appeared to support participants in opinion forming, counter-argument incorporation and extrapolation. Also, reflection on deeper questions such as `what is nature?' evoked understanding for alternative viewpoints. These findings show that playful exhibits, like the OL, potentially facilitate dialogue in science museums very well.

20/07/2017

In this paper, we identify some milestones in the construction process for mobile science museums and centres in Brazil. As background for presenting the Brazilian context, we initially address the records found on the earliest travelling museum exhibitions and mobile museums in Europe and North America. We then introduce the role of UNESCO in the promotion and implementation of travelling science exhibitions and museums in several countries. Finally, we document important events in the history of mobile science museum and centres in Brazil and outline three general and inter-related challenges currently faced by them.

21/06/2017

The future challenges within science communication lie in a 'grey area' where the frontiers between production and sharing of knowledge are blurred. An area in which we can satisfy at the same time and within the same activity the autonomous interests of researchers and those of other stakeholders, including lay publics. Settings are emerging, where we can provide real contribution to scientific research and at the same time facilitate the publics in their process of hacking scientific knowledge to serve autonomously defined and often unpredictable functions. Some are linked to research institutes, others to science centres, others are precisely inbetween. This editorial explores why these special places are needed, and present some case studies, leading to the need of interpreting science culture centres as research facilities.

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