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1 Overview Globalization and emerging economies around the world of communication on the Internet such as video sharing (e.g., offer challenges to the economic position and quality of life YouTube), social networking (e.g., Facebook), and microb- that Americans enjoy, and experts worry that a lack of scien- logging (e.g., Twitter) present new and possibly improved tific and technical understanding in the United States could opportunities for chemists to communicate with the public, hamper its ability to lead in the future.1 Formal education but it is not clear whom these media formats reach or how and preparation of students from K-12 to the graduate school effectively they present specific messages. The chemical sci- level and beyond is vital for developing science literacy. ences and technology community could increase its impact However, informal learning opportunities such as family on improving general chemical literacy by evaluating current TV viewing or visiting a museum or an Internet website can approaches to informal education and learning how best to engage and educate the population more broadly.2 In fact, navigate both new and old media. most Americans learn about science outside of school3 and primarily obtain science and technology (S&T) information ABOUT THIS DOCUMENT from television and the Internet.4 Yet in these informal settings, such as watching televi- The National Academies’ Chemical Sciences Roundtable sion, little primary chemistry content is found.5 Chemists (CSR) held a workshop on May 26-27, 2010, to examine often voice frustration about their inability to effectively the challenges and opportunities to presenting chemistry communicate their ideas to the general public outside the content on television, the Internet, in museums, and in other formal classroom or research laboratory setting. New modes informal educational settings. The workshop “Chemistry in Primetime and Online: Communicating Chemistry in Informal Environments” explored how the public obtains 1National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and scientific information informally and discussed methods Institute of Medicine. 2007. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing that chemists can use to improve and expand efforts to reach and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, DC: a general, nontechnical audience. Workshop participants National Academies Press. included chemical practitioners (e.g., graduate students, 2Philip Bell, Bruce Lewenstein, Andrew W. Shouse, and Michael A. postdocs, professors, administrators); experts on informal Feder, Editors, Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments, learning; public and private funding organizations; science National Research Council. 2009. Learning Science in Informal Environ- ments. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Available online at writers, bloggers, publishers, and university communications www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12190. officers; and television and Internet content producers. This 3J.H. Falk, and L.D. Dierking, 2010. The 95 percent solution (School is workshop featured invited presentations, discussions, and a not where most Americans learn most of their science) American Scientist poster session that highlighted key informal education activi- 98: 486-493. 4Science and Engineering Indicators. 2010. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ ties in the chemical sciences. seind10/?org=DRL. Pew General Public Survey. 2009. http://people-press. This document summarizes the presentations and discus- org/report/?pageid=1552. sions that took place at the workshop. Where possible, back- 5B. Halford. 2008. Stephen Lyons: A television producer’s take on what ground references have been provided to support statements makes good chemistry for the small screen. Chemical and Engineering made or data described. In addition, the Internet information News 86(39)41. 1
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2 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE Informal Chemistry provided was correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of publication. It is important to remember, however, In this session, an introduction to informal education that information on websites can be transient and is not was provided by Kirsten Ellenbogen, Science Museum of always validated or verifiable. The reader is urged to follow Minnesota and member of the National Research Council up with individual guest speakers and their institutions for Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments. further clarification of statements made during the workshop The connection between chemistry and informal education or to obtain additional reference materials. was presented by David Ucko of the National Science Foun- dation. Stephen Lyons, with Moreno-Lyons Productions, Important Note about Open Discussions: Each chapter in discussed the role of documentary films in communicating this document ends with a summary of discussion topics science and how chemistry is one of the few fields that have introduced by speakers and participants in the immediate been neglected by informal media sources. session (chapter), as well as all preceding workshop sessions. Chemistry in Print WORKSHOP OVERVIEW This session focused on the ways chemistry is presented The workshop began with an introduction to informal informally through literature, print media, and blogs. John learning and how it relates to chemistry, including how the Emsley from the University of Cambridge discussed steps to public obtains scientific information and effective methods becoming a science writer and explained how the struggles used to communicate science more broadly. There were of a chemistry writer may differ from other types of writers. then several panels of speakers focused around media for- Ivan Amato of the Pew Charitable Trusts, a former writer mats and venues where chemistry content is communicated, and editor at Chemical and Engineering News, pointed out which form the structure of this document: print, hands-on how chemistry is ignored by media, but also discussed the outreach, museums, video & radio, gaming, and libraries. opportunities that exist to highlight chemistry, especially The workshop ended with a wrap-up panel consisting of four through chemical imagery. Joy Moore from Seed Media participants, who attended both days of the event and agreed Group provided insights into how her company has been in advance to comment on important messages they heard using print media and science blogs to promote a better during the workshop. understanding of chemistry. Key issues raised during the workshop include the following: Local Outreach Efforts • The deficiency in public understanding of chemistry; This session included personal experiences from local • Chemists’ ability or inability to communicate outreach experts and how they introduce informal science effectively; to their communities. Jeanette Brown of the New Jersey • The need for different approaches to communication American Chemical Society (ACS) local section shared her for different goals (i.e., promotional, marketing, advocacy, experience as a chemistry ambassador, conducting hands-on educational); activities at festivals and other events, as well as creating • The importance of highlighting the human side of educational resources about African-American chemists. chemistry; Ruth Woodall of the Nashville ACS local section also dis- • The difficulty in assessing the effectiveness of various cussed being a chemistry ambassador and how she introduces communication venues; chemistry to public audiences, especially young people. • The need for studying and evaluating different Catherine Conrad from St. Mary’s University presented approaches to communicating chemistry; a very different approach to local outreach called citizen • The importance of formal education in setting the stage science, where nonscientists help collect real scientific data. for informal interactions with chemistry and chemists; Conrad explained how she became involved in citizen sci- • The role that technology plays in communicating ence and how it has benefited her research as well as her chemistry in informal environments; local community. • Losing the “chemistry” when communicating about chemistry applications; Chemistry in Museums • The need for chemists to connect more with profes- sional writers, artists, or videographers, who know how to In this session, speakers described various approaches to communicate with and interest general audiences. informal learning of chemistry in museums. Sapna Batish of the Koshland Science Museum showed current exhibits featured at the museum and how chemistry content is incor- porated into the exhibits. Susanne Rehn of the Deutsche
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3 OVERVIEW environments. Robert Hone of Red Hill Studios shared his Museum described the chemistry exhibitions that have existed at the museum for many years and shared the details insights on creating educational video games. He explained of, and rationale for, the extensive renovations under way different gaming design strategies and the strengths and to update and improve the exhibits. Shelley Geehr with the weaknesses of using games as tools for informal educa- tion. Deborah Illman from the University of Washington Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) discussed the recently created CHF museum, including museum exhibits, special discussed her ongoing efforts to provide communications events, and other CHF resources available to the public. training for scientists and her recent focus on working with Lastly, Peter Yancone with the Maryland Science Center chemists. Andrea Twiss-Brooks from the University of Chi- presented the chemistry-related activities at the museum. cago explained the important and changing role that libraries and librarians play as a source of informal science. She also discussed how the ACS Committee on Community Activities Chemistry in Video and on the Radio is trying to better collect data and evaluate the effectiveness This panel focused on the role of video and radio in infor- of its outreach efforts. mal science education. Martyn Poliakoff from the Univer- sity of Nottingham described how he and his team created Workshop Wrap-up Session the very successful Periodic Table of Videos on the Internet, which features short videos about each of the elements of the This session included four panelists with diverse per- Periodic Table. Jorge Salazar of EarthSky Communications spectives who attended the entire workshop. They were described his organization’s efforts to provide a commercial- asked to provide impromptu comments on what they heard during the workshop talks and discussions. David Ucko free way for scientists to communicate their research to the public through audio and video on the radio and over the of the National Science Foundation provided a perspective Internet. Mark Griep from the University of Nebraska- from a government funding agency. Nancy Blount with Lincoln discussed his analysis of chemistry content in films the American Chemical Society presented views from the main professional organization for chemists. Joy Moore and explained how popular movies can play a major role as an informal educational tool for understanding chemistry. with Seed Media Group commented from the perspective of new media and communications. CSR co-chair Mark Barteau from the University of Delaware provided an Tools and Techniques academic perspective. In this session, speakers shared insights on new tools and techniques for communicating chemistry in informal