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Communicating Chemistry in Informal Settings
Project Scope

The proposed activity will characterize current efforts to communicate chemistry in informal settings and draw on existing research in order to develop a framework for effective communication.  This research will be made useful to individuals and groups involved in engaging the public with chemistry by linking it to scientifically based strategies on how best to address naïve mental models, common misconceptions, and lack of interest in chemistry. To achieve this goal, this activity will: - Identify where chemistry is being presented to the public (outside of formal school settings), how it is presented in these settings, the stated goals and objectives of informal chemistry communication, outreach, and education, and the perception of audience needs on which these efforts in engaging the public with chemistry are based. - Identify effective methods and techniques for engaging the public in chemistry by building on existing literature and studies on effective learning, communication, education, and outreach of science in informal and formal environments, including project and program evaluations, with additional input drawn from fields such as marketing, communications, and entertainment. - Provide examples, in the form of case studies, of effective evidence-based chemistry communication, outreach, and informal education activities. - Identify new and emerging communication and education tools and venues that show promise for providing opportunities to improve and expand chemistry communication, outreach, and education to various public audiences over the next five years (identify the current infrastructure of institutions and organizations that can support the chemistry community in its efforts). - Develop recommendations for research and development on effective practices for informal chemistry communication, outreach, and education. - Identify appropriate assessment and evaluation frameworks in the area of informal chemistry communication, outreach, and education. An expert committee will synthesize this information into a conceptual framework that will identify a range of goals related to engaging the public with chemistry (e.g., increase awareness, generate interest, teach concepts, change behavior) and provide evidence-based strategies to accomplish each goal. The project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The approximate start date for the project is September 15, 2012. A report will be issued at the end of the project in early 2015.

Members
Dr. Mark A. Ratner (Co-Chair) - Northwestern University
Dr. David A. Ucko (Co-Chair) - Museums + More, LLC
Mr. Lawrence Bell - Museum of Science
Dr. Diane Bunce - Catholic University of America
Dr. Julia Y. Chan - Louisiana State University
Dr. Luis Echegoyen - The University of Texas at El Paso
Dr. Joseph S. Francisco - Purdue University
Ms. Mary Kirchhoff - American Chemical Society
Dr. Bruce Lewenstein - Cornell University
Dr. Michael Stieff - University of Illinois at Chicago
For more information, see the complete record at the National Academies' Current Project site


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