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The #SciOutCaseStudy Project

By Jeanne Garbarino , Kyle Marian Viterbo

Led by Kyle Marian Viterbo and Jeanne Garbarino, the #SciOutCaseStudy project aims to create a simple, yet flexible framework for outreach practitioners to fill in and submit case studies of their work, and build a science outreach initiative library that any individual can contribute to and learn from. This project was built through support from the Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS) Fellowship program (Jeanne and Kyle were part of the first cohort of fellows in 2019 — see more about the 2019 ARIS Fellows here!).

We would love to continue connecting with people who are interested in using and/or helping to build this resource. Take the survey, and feel free to get in touch with us (contact link on side bar).

Defining the Challenge We Want to Address

As local and national science outreach communities continue to nascently form and grow, and the professionalization of the science engagement fields continue to take hold, it is important that members of these communities are connected and supported. However, the individual experiences of this growing professional community consists of highly diverse cultural and social contexts, audiences, and engagement goals. Because of this, a singular set of best practices would not be broadly applicable. Adding to this challenge is the idea that science outreach practitioners are not necessarily familiar with one another, nor are they familiar with programs and initiatives facilitated by their colleagues within their spheres.

We see this as an important gap that can be addressed through case studies. The #SciOutCaseStudy initiative aims to showcase examples of high quality, context-specific science outreach programs and projects, while also giving attribution to the person or people doing the work. By including information about the individual doing science outreach, we can better understand how a practitioner’s background and network can affect their science outreach practice, and with a clear way to share our stories as practitioners, we can foster effective resource sharing, notes on strategy, and an efficient understanding of what works in specific contexts.

Existing formats of case studies and toolkits exist in UK public engagement networks, and has allowed their field of knowledge to grow exponentially by building on individual efforts. With the vast landscape of American economic and sociocultural contexts, the opportunities provided by hub of knowledge exchange that captures diverse challenges, approaches, and outcomes of outreach practitioners across the country can greatly accelerate learning, growth, and innovation for the independent practitioner and larger science outreach organizations alike.

We hope that this will serve the science outreach community allowing practitioners to better understand what good science outreach can look like in a diversity of settings, and to have a repository that tells us who is doing the work so that we can more effectively connect with each other. 

Developing Our Tools

Creation and Iteration of our Survey Framework

We began by drafting an initial survey skeleton for collecting relevant information about a science outreach program or initiative that can be universally applied. Leaning on existing frameworks and science communication reflection tools created and iterated upon by British institutions like the Wellcome Trust, Science Museums network, the UK’s National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), we began to prototype what might best serve the wide array of contexts reflected in the American science outreach landscape.

We workshopped survey drafts with several members of the #SciOut Community who represented a diversity of contexts (i.e., big institution, individual grassroots practitioner, rural and city audiences, etc), providing an opportunity to iterate on our case study survey after each discussion. We ultimately landed on a survey, about 30 minutes in length to complete, to collect details on:

  • Overview of science outreach initiative
  • Logistics related to this effort
  • Information on your target/stakeholder audiences
  • Description of your initiative’s outcomes
  • Information about your team and organization
  • Personal reflections

The link to our current survey is here, and we will continue collecting feedback to make future improvements.

Including Nuanced Perspectives

Kyle and Jeanne interview Camilo Garay from VoS

We did not want to lean exclusively on survey responses to convey the essence of of a particular program or initiative. Instead, these responses are for the creation of tailored questions for the practitioner(s) to answer during an interview over zoom. This approach allows us to capture and curate conversations around a science outreach approach or strategy, while providing nuanced perspectives essential for crafting an authentic case study.  

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We intend for this framework to be both robust and flexible, shaped by the needs and practical feedback of the outreach community. We aim to capture a nuanced and valuable picture of science outreach practices in diverse contexts, taking into consideration the many different types of science and scientists, audiences, available resources, and lessons learned.

We would love to continue connecting with people who are interested in using and/or helping to build this resource. Take the survey, and feel free to get in touch with us (contact link on side bar).

Disclaimer

This survey was developed as part of the Advancing Research Impacts in Society (ARIS) Center Fellows Program supported through a grant from the NSF (#1810732). The findings and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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