Spanning the Spectrum with Public Science

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  • NASA ’s Chandra X-ray Observatory Orbits ~1/3 of the way to the moon. Studies the high-energy regions of the Universe including black holes, exploding stars and colliding galaxies. TOPICS Digital and Online projects Events (Public Science) Research and Methodologies
  • Star clusters, the galactic center, huge clusters of galaxies, supernova remnants. These are some of the exotica that Chandra observes. But telling a complete picture with just X-rays or any single slice of the electromagnetic spectrum is quite difficult…or you could say impossible since the equivalent might be trying to study a soccer game by just seeing a small portion of midfield in soccer/football and having to figure out the entire game.
  • We try to provide as much multiwavelength context as we can. These are just NASA’s great observatories but we use the data from many other telescopes, from ESO’s and ESA’s fleet of missions to smaller observatories around the world.
  • -Social media and mobile platforms: Blogs, Photo Blog, Podcasts (HD), Twitter, YouTube, FB, user ratings, etc. -Metadata/AVM and GoogleSky, Microsoft WWT -Open Gov initiative with openFits -Experimenting with multi-user multi-touch platforms (such as MS Surface)
  • Studying the public ’s perception and understanding of astronomical imagery across multiple traditional and non-traditional venues and platforms, including mobile and web platforms.  Results of initial 2008 study were gathered from focus groups and online surveys. A portable research exhibit traveled to 6 locations in 2010 for the second phase of the study. A mobile-platform study was also completed to investigate if size matters: http://chandra.si.edu/mobile/aa.html
  • We approached the following research questions:   • How much do variations in presentation of color, explanation, and scale affect comprehension of astronomical images? • What are the differences between various populations (experts, novices, students) in terms of what they learn from the images? • What misconceptions do the non-experts have about astronomy and the images they are exposed to?   Does presentation have an effect on the participant– whether aesthetic or in terms of learning?
  • Overall outcomes from the initial study: • Providing context for the image is critical to comprehension. • Experts prefer text that is shorter/to the point; novices prefer narrative expository style to accompany image. • A sense of scale with the images is helpful for comprehension at all levels of expertise. • Experts and novices view the images differently. Novices begin with a sense of awe/wonder, and focus first on the aesthetic qualities. Experts wonder how the image was produced, what information is being presented in the image, and what the creators of the image wanted to convey. • Experts are much more likely to view blue as hot than are novices; about 80% of novices see red as hot compared to 60% of experts. More details from 2008 study available in Journal of Science Communication: http://tiny.cc/t2mhx & upcoming issue of Communicating Science with the Public.
  • Quickly went from preliminary academic research to field-tested practices on the Chandra web site http://chandra.si.edu Added bulleted text for each new image, interactive labeling, and put “Wikipedia-style” links in the body of the text. Each of these changes came out of the feedback we received during the online survey and focus groups.   Developed an interactive multiwavelength image feature that allows the user to move from one energy band to another, and ultimately “build” the composite themselves. Built an interactive, question-based text script into the Chandra photo pages with click-tracking methods to count the user clicks per question and per image, and to compare totals. The feedback from the public on these relatively simple changes to the website have been overwhelmingly positive, through our comment and rating sections. Our next step is to implement a questionnaire on the Chandra website to ask users specifically how these new features affect their enjoyment and comprehension of the image and the science behind it. Similar implementation with a series of print products that includes posters featuring multiwavelength astronomical images. Here, we use the tried and true series of questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how to engage the viewer in an approachable manner. The text highlights some of the content that was commonly asked during the focus groups including how the images were made, the historical importance of the object, the location in the night sky, etc. Data collection and a brief summative evaluation of these six posters are being conducted to analyze the impact of the improved features on the public ’s understanding.
  • Latest data analysis includes evidence for understanding the effectiveness of an astronomy exhibition in terms of gauging how much visitors have learned;  what type of story format may be best for engaging the visitor/participant learning; and what type of platform may be best for implementation. Preliminary analysis shows that size matters and that the Q&A and fun fact versions of narrative were confirmed over traditional tombstone data caption formats. To be submitted, Curator Papers/articles at http://astroart.cfa.harvard.edu/
  • Simultaneously, while A&A was getting off the ground, we launched an image exhibition project. FETTU was a grassroots project from IYA2009 that created a digital repository of astronomical images that local organizers were then encouraged to use to make their own exhibits. The results were inspiring.
  • Chicago and Atlanta airports: millions of people saw the images – they are still there. Scores of versions of FETTU in Brazil. In China, featured outside the Beijing Planetarium.
  • Public art is defined by wikipedia as “ artwork that has been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.” Some of the most famous examples around the world include The Gates by Christo and Jean-Claude; Big Yellow Rabbit by Florentijn Hofman; Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoo
  • We posit an equivalent for science: Public science = “ science outreach that has been conducted outdoors or in another type of public or accessible space such as a public park, metro stop, library etc. with the intention of engaging the public.”
  • Using this definition, we can go back and identify many projects that could arguably be considered public science. Here are some of our favorites. Science City: ran from June 1994 through May 1995. Created by organizers from the New York Hall of Science, "Science City" was an outdoor exhibition that utilized the street, fences, buildings and other public structures in New York City to attract the "non-museum-going" public to the science in everyday life; For Science on the Buses, city buses were decorated with large informational science posters inside or outside, taking science concepts outside museum and planetarium walls; Other sci festivals include San Diego, Philadelphia, SF
  • FETTU was an image exhibition project created for IIYA2009. It was grassroots project that created a digital repository of astronomical images that local organizers were then encouraged to use to make their own exhibits. Unique model for astronomy outreach: Distributed Curation Global to Local Methodology
  • Chicago and Atlanta airports: millions of people saw the images – they are still there. Scores of versions of FETTU in Brazil. In China, featured outside the Beijing Planetarium.
  • Test the sustainability of such a model with FETTSS Collaboration with our group (CXC/SAO) and NASA ’s Astrobiology Institute FETTSS is tied to NASA ’s Year of the Solar System that ran from October 2010 through August 2012. An exhibit in spain occurred in 2011: Portal de La Marina commercial centre in Ondara Spain and about 100 other sites world wide
  • Researching in FETTSS & beyond Who are we attracting in these “everyday situations”? More incidental visitors than intentional visitors with public science? Less-science-initiated audience than science centers/planetariums? Do participants follow up with local science center, library or other resources? Is there any reshaping of the participant ’s identity (or non-identity) with science through public science?
  • FETTSS is tied to NASA ’s Year of the Solar System that runs from October 2010 through August 2012.
  • Currently researching project ideas to extend FETTU concept outside of “astronomy only” to include and branch out towards and provide connections to chemistry, environmental science, earth science, art, etc. Shown here are new projects in various stages of progression. Chemisty & the Cosmos, how astronomy uses the periodic table art & science projects: “ Coloring Space” online exhibition Small exhibit called “High Energy Process: Looking Back, Seeing Through” that explores the use of X-rays in astronomy and in historical art research, recently circulated in the US.
  • New project: Here, There, & Everywhere (HTE) Compares phenomena on Earth to those in space Capitalize on eye-catching visuals (FETTU/FETTSS) with the power of analogy in public spaces (libraries, malls, etc.) First exhibits launched in September 2012
  • Spanning the Spectrum with Public Science

    1. 1. PUBLIC SCIENCE Spanning the Spectrum with PUBLIC SCIENCE Kimberly Kowal Arcand • September 28, 2012 Chandra X-ray Center/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Cambridge, MA USA
    2. 2. PUBLIC SCIENCE NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory Orbits ~1/3 of the way to the moon. Studies the high-energy regions of the Universe including black holes, exploding stars and colliding galaxies.
    3. 3. PUBLIC SCIENCE Chandra has imaged the spectacular, glowing remains of exploded stars, and taken spectra showing the dispersal of elements. Chandra has observed the region around the supermassive black hole in the center of our Milky Way, and found black holes across the Universe. Chandra has traced the separation of dark matter from normal matter in the collision of galaxies in a cluster and is contributing to both dark matter and dark energy studies. As its mission continues, Chandra will continue to discover startling new science about our high- energy Universe.
    4. 4. PUBLIC SCIENCE Electromagnetic Spectrum & NASA’s Great Observatories
    5. 5. PUBLIC SCIENCEChandra Digital & Online ProjectsDiversifyingSocial media & mobile platforms: Blogs,Photo Blog, Podcasts (HD), Twitter,YouTube, FB; Space scoop for kids; Signlanguage; audio files for Braille projects.Longevity6,000 public images fully tagged withmetadata/AVM (GoogleSky, MicrosoftWWT, Flickr, etc.)EngagementTopic-based content portals (LearnAbout Black Holes, SNR-), Interactiveweb & 3D (Cas A), openFits, user ratings,etc.MultimodalMulti-user multi-touch platforms(such as MS Surface) Kim Arcand
    6. 6. PUBLIC SCIENCEResearch and Methodologies: Aesthetics & AstronomyStudying the public’s perception and understanding of astronomical imagery across multipletraditional and non-traditional venues and platforms, including mobile and web platforms. Kim Arcand
    7. 7. PUBLIC SCIENCEResearch questions:• How much do variations in presentation of color, explanation,and scale affect comprehension of astronomical images?• What are the differences between various populations (experts,novices, students) in terms of what they learn from the images?• What misconceptions do the non-experts have aboutastronomy and the images they are exposed to?Does presentation have an effect – whether aesthetic orin terms of learning?
    8. 8. PUBLIC SCIENCEOutcomes:• Providing context for the image is critical to comprehension.• Experts prefer text that is shorter/to the point; novices prefernarrative expository style to accompany image.• A sense of scale with the images is helpful for comprehensionat all levels of expertise.• Experts and novices view the images differently. Novicesbegin with a sense of awe/wonder, and focus first on theaesthetic qualities. Experts wonder how the image wasproduced, what information is being presented in the image,and what the creators of the image wanted to convey.• Experts are much more likely to view blue as hot than arenovices; about 80% of novices see red as hot compared to60% of experts.R
    9. 9. PUBLIC SCIENCEApplying the results in Chandra EPO products:
    10. 10. PUBLIC SCIENCE Latest data analysis includes evidence for understanding the effectiveness of an astronomy exhibition in terms of gauging how much visitors have learned; what type of story format may be best for engaging the visitor/participant learning; and what type of platform may be best for implementation. To be submitted, Curator Papers/articles at http://astroart.cfa.harvard.edu/
    11. 11. PUBLIC SCIENCE From Earth to the Universe (FETTU) – www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org – IYA 2009 cornerstone project – Unique model for astronomy outreach: • Distributed Curation • Global to Local Methodology • Non-traditional locations for astronomy outreach
    12. 12. PUBLIC SCIENCE FETTU results were inspiring: Over 1000 locations in ~70 countries (translated into over 40 languages) Still ongoing in 2012.
    13. 13. PUBLIC SCIENCE Public art “ artwork that has been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.” Below: The Gates by Christo and Jean-Claude; Big Yellow Rabbit by Florentijn Hofman; Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoo
    14. 14. PUBLIC SCIENCE Equivalent for science? Public science = “science outreach that has been conducted outdoors or in another type of public or accessible space such as a public park, metro stop, library etc. with the intention of engaging the public.”
    15. 15. PUBLIC SCIENCE Past examples include: • Science City (New York: 1994-1995) • Science on the Buses (UK, Canada, others) • Science Festivals: – Long tradition of these in European & other countries. – US catching on: USA Science & Engineering Festival, World Science Festival, etc.
    16. 16. PUBLIC SCIENCE From Earth to the Universe (FETTU) – www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org – IYA 2009 cornerstone project – Unique model for astronomy outreach: • Distributed Curation • Global to Local Methodology
    17. 17. PUBLIC SCIENCE FETTU results were inspiring: over 1000 locations in over 70 countries (text translated into over 40 languages.) Images courtesy of the From Earth to the Universe project
    18. 18. PUBLIC SCIENCE From Earth to the Solar System (FETTSS) – A collection of 90 images that cover astronomy, astrobiology, and planetary science – ~100 FETTSS sites worldwide – http://fettss.arc.nasa.gov/ for the locations map, event photos, free materials.
    19. 19. PUBLIC SCIENCE• Researching in FETTSS & beyond – Who are we attracting in these – Do participants follow up “everyday situations”? with local science center, • More incidental visitors than library or other resources? intentional visitors with public – Is there any reshaping of the science? participant’s identity (or non- • Less-science-initiated audience identity) with science through than science public science? centers/planetariums?
    20. 20. PUBLIC SCIENCE• Preliminary data analysis (4/7 sites so far) – Corpus Christi, Texas: Mall (CC) – National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC: Outside on the National Mall (NASM) – Central Florida University: Campus Library (CFU) – Kansas City, Missouri: Union Station train station (KC) = Slightly younger audience than Chandra web site average, rated selves more novice in astronomy knowledge, more incidental visitors than those looking for astronomy, small learning gains, and increased interest.
    21. 21. PUBLIC SCIENCEAstronomy + Researching projects to take a more holistic view of astronomy, including and branching out towards chemistry, environmental science, earth science, art, etc. Kim Arcand
    22. 22. PUBLIC SCIENCEHolistic Approach. Here, There, & Everywhere(HTE) – Compares phenomena across scale (micro to macro) – Capitalize on eye-catching visuals with the power of analogy in public spaces (libraries, malls, etc.) – First exhibits launched in September 2012. – http://hte.si.edu
    23. 23. PUBLIC SCIENCE Spring 2013. FETTU & FETTSS in book form
    24. 24. PUBLIC SCIENCE Public science on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_science Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., “Creating Public Science with the From Earth to the Universe Project” Science Communication. Vol 33(3) 398–407, Sept. 2011. kkowal@cfa.harvard.edu Twitter: @kimberlykowal http://yourtickettotheuniverse.com

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