ASTC’s Community Science Initiative is comprised of several new and interlinked philanthropically-funded programs to connect and support our members in building capacity for their own community science work.

What is Community Science?

Community science is an emerging practice for the science and technology center and museum field aimed at nurturing relationships between science and communities. We define “communities” broadly as connected or organized groups of people who share a common geography, jurisdiction, set of characteristics, or interests and goals. Community science gives science-engagement practitioners and scientists the opportunity to collaborate with community members to do science that advances community priorities.

Community science encompasses a diverse set of community-centered approaches, models, and tools that science and technology centers and museums can use to fulfill their missions to advance lifelong science learning, connect science and society, engage diverse audiences, and partner to solve local and global challenges. A wide variety of approaches to community science are currently in use by our members and partners, including:

  • Public dialogue and deliberation programs on how science, technology, and innovation intersect with societal issues
  • Co-creation and co-design—with community members—of exhibits, content, programs, curriculum, and project-based learning opportunities
  • Citizen-science projects to address community questions (not just researcher questions)
  • Participatory, evidence-based policymaking
  • Environmental- and social-justice initiatives in collaboration with researchers and supported by scientific evidence, data, and technology
  • Open challenges, competitions, and calls to action that seek specific scientific and technical solutions to difficult problems
  • Public participation in the design and implementation of research initiatives
  • Other community-centered science activities

About the Initiative

ASTC’s Community Science Initiative aligns with ASTC’s second strategic pillar and is designed to support our members in leveraging community-science approaches so that they can join with their communities in responding to societal trends. This initiative will:

  • Build capacity within ASTC-member institutions and their workforce to address community priorities through community science generally, and public dialogue and deliberation programs specifically
  • Create a framework and documentation of experimental models for community science that can be funded, evaluated, and replicated
  • Provide training on—and funding support for—approaches and models that welcome and include diverse community members
Current Activities
  • We collaborated with several partners on the Public Interest Technology Community Innovation Fellowship (PITCIF) in which a science center professional and their community partner co-develop a public-deliberation forum on participatory technology assessment and public-interest technology to advance a community priority.
  • ASTC, the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX), and the American Metorological Society (AMS) have launched a cohort of TEX Community Science Fellows for staff at ASTC-member institutions to receive training in the TEX model of community-driven science, as well as mentorship in designing and implementing a project that uses science to make their community stronger.
  • We are conducting a landscape study—through listening calls, workshops, and an online survey—to gather information from the science engagement field about approaches to community science and the wide range of activities that ASTC members and our partners are deploying to put community priorities at the center of their work.
  • At the 2020 ASTC Annual Conference, we hosted a pre-conference intensive to: share findings from the landscape study; connect our members working on diverse approaches to community science; and identify gaps and assess opportunities for capacity building for community science generally, and for public dialogue and deliberation programs specifically.
  • In 2021 and beyond, ASTC is working with our partners and funders to launch additional capacity-building programs on community science, including dedicated support for scaling community dialogue and deliberation programs on issues of emerging science and technology.

Our Partners in This Work

This initiative is made possible with the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Public Interest Technology University Network. We’re grateful for their support of—and vision for—community science at ASTC and across our member institutions with their community partners.

If you have any additional questions or feedback for ASTC about the Community Science Initiative, please send us an email.

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