The initiative is a flexible strategic framework that helps science centers and other informal learning organizations create meaningful face-to-face interactions between working scientists and public audiences. Although each setting is unique, most organizations engage scientists and engineers from local universities and companies; some have large events with many scientists while others bring a single scientist to work with a small group at the museum. Many institutions engage these local experts on an ongoing basis and connect them with each other. An important objective is for these relationships to be mutually beneficial, with participating scientists and science center staff developing an understanding of each other’s expertise and organizational culture.
The Portal to the Public approach has been adopted by more than 60 organizations, who have taken advantage of training, implementation resources, and a growing network of like-minded professionals (PoPNet).
With original funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Portal to the Public was developed in 2007 as a collaboration between Pacific Science Center, Explora, North Museum of Natural History and Science, and The Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI). The Network grew with subsequent support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and NSF and is now facilitated by ILI.
The award will presented at the 2020 ARIS Summit, which will be held April 28–30 in Durham, North Carolina.
ARIS, which was founded in 2018 with support from the National Science Foundation, grew out of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI). Jamie Bell, project director and principal investigator for the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE)—which is housed at ASTC—serves on ARIS’ Council of Experts.
- “Portal to the Public: The Power of a Personal Approach,” by Eve Klein and Anna Johnson. Dimensions, Nov/Dec 2018.
- Portal to the Public