Several months ago, during a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, I watched a young boy gazing in fascination at the health exhibition YOU!, The Experience, even as a national initiative to stem obesity is targeting children across the United States. At the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, I observed students of markedly diverse backgrounds probing the issues of race and bias in science. At the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, located only steps from some of the most advanced biomedical facilities in the world, I joined visitors in learning about the basics of genomics and stem cell research. At the Museum of Science, Boston, I participated in a community dialogue on climate change, hosted by science centers in Europe and the United States, at the very moment that global climate negotiations were underway in Copenhagen. With visitors to the Otago Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand, I experienced the ecological fragility of the tropical rainforest, as nations worldwide are evaluating progress in commitments to preservation of biodiversity.
As a new participant in the fascinating world of science centers and museums, I have quickly come to see the breadth of impact that our institutions can (and do) offer. ASTC’s 582 member organizations come in all sizes and span 45 countries on six continents. We estimate that there are more than 80 million visits to our facilities each year.
ASTC member institutions worldwide are strengthening the environment for learning and applying science, and they are engaging visitors of all ages in critical societal issues where science understanding is essential. They are making global issues real and relevant within communities, and they are helping their visitors—young and old alike—see themselves as part of a larger community of global citizens. This is at the heart of the vision ASTC members share, to be viewed as essential elements within their communities.
As ASTC’s CEO, I want to work especially hard to ensure that our members are regularly recognized for their valuable contributions to STEM education and to public engagement in complex scientific issues in society today. Above all, your Association must be your strongest advocate.
And advocacy does not rest with today’s successes. We will explore the many ways in which ASTC members can contribute even more to the understanding and engagement of their communities in science-based issues, locally and globally. ASTC members in the United States, for example, will have the opportunity to participate in a new ASTC-sponsored Youth Inspired Challenge, contributing to a Presidential campaign to make science learning a cornerstone of youth development. At the same time, ASTC has taken the lead in preparing a global declaration calling for greater commitment to informal science education, for consideration at the upcoming UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals.
ASTC will bring its unique membership and mission into partnerships and alliances with many other organizations around the world that strive to meet the public’s need for science understanding and education. Together, our organizations can serve as critical agents of change on key issues.
As you, our members, strive to serve your communities with enriching and enjoyable experiences, ASTC is committed to providing you with a comprehensive portfolio of valuable supporting services. Whether by compiling and disseminating information on relevant practices or exploring creative new concepts in workshops, online programs, publications and retreats, our goals will be to help individual professionals acquire the skills necessary to administer programs efficiently and to enable member institutions to navigate successfully through the challenges of changing times and circumstances. Perhaps most importantly, ASTC is committed to providing our members with vision, direction, and inspirational leadership by anticipating trends, inspiring new approaches, and helping our members to prepare for opportunities and challenges as yet unforeseen.
We look forward to seeing all of our members in Honolulu, October 2 to 5, at the ASTC Annual Conference—which is, and always will be, a unique opportunity to renew contacts and shared experiences. In order for ASTC to serve you best, I hope you will not wait for this annual event, however, to share with me your hopes, needs, and thoughts on how ASTC can support you in your individual missions.
I am extremely excited to be part of the great work performed by all of our ASTC members—large and small. The journey of discovery may be endless, but it can be made to be enjoyable at every step. I am reminded of a quote from author Isaac Asimov (who, I am told, wrote more science nonfiction than fiction):
“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…'”