What happens when the public is given the opportunity to engage meaningfully in authentic scientific research? Participants may develop a sense of ownership and a deeper understanding of science, and scientists gain access to valuable resources and fresh perspectives. As sites for community engagement, education, and sometimes scientific research itself, science centers, museums, and related institutions are ideally positioned to connect the public with authentic research.
In this issue of Dimensions, we examine three ways our field is doing this work. A major part of the issue is devoted to citizen science, where volunteers partner with scientists to investigate real scientific questions. We define citizen science broadly here to include many different models of public participation in scientific research, whether laypeople are collecting or analyzing data, interpreting results, or determining research questions. In addition, this issue looks at research labs housed in museums, and programs that connect youth to scientists as mentors.
• Everyone a Scientist? Opening Scientific Research to a Broader Public, by Martin Storksdieck
• Six Practices for Engaging Underrepresented Communities as Citizen Science Partners, by Norman Porticella, Flisa Stevenson, and Jennifer Shirk
• Bridging the Gaps: Integrating Citizen Science Throughout an Institution, by Christine L. Goforth, Julie M. Urban, and Julie E. Horvath
• Select Resources to Support and Inspire Citizen Science, compiled by Christine L. Goforth and Jennifer Shirk
• Powered by the People: A Citizen Science Sampler
• Testing the Waters: Students in India Monitor Arsenic Levels, by Niranjan Gupta, Nikhiles Biswas, Naba Kumar Mondal, G.S. Rautela, Emdadul Islam, and Marilyn Hoyt
• Teen Scientists: Youth Doing Rigorous, Authentic Research at Museums, by Preeti Gupta and Oscar Pineda
• Native Science Fellows: Supporting Native American Students in Geoscience Research, by Helen Augare, Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer, Shelly Valdez, and Melissa Weatherwax
• There’s a New Lab in Town, by Sara Poirier
• From the CEO: The “team sport” of science center learning
• Viewpoints: Are making and tinkering spaces just a fad, or are they here to stay?
• Q&A: Sean Carroll on science and the silver screen