Public Science: Astronomy in Everyday Situations


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Akin to public art, public science can be defined as “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.

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Public Science: Astronomy in Everyday Situations

  1. 1. PUBLIC SCIENCE Kimberly Kowal Arcand Twitter: @kimberlykowal  Live tweeting is encouraged! :) Astronomy in Everyday Situations NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory: In orbit, 1/3 of the way to the moon Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory: Cambridge, MA USA July 22, 2013 in Nottingham, UK
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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. often with aspects of collaboration, community support and involvement, and site specificity.”
  4. 4. Examples of varying depth might include: • Science City (New York: 1994-5) Science World (Canada, ongoing) • Science on the Buses (UK, Canada, others) • Science Festivals: – Long tradition in European & other countries. – US caught on: USA Science & Engineering Festival, World Science Festival, etc. •Science Cafes, Science in the pub, Soapbox Science & more.
  5. 5. From Earth to the Universe (FETTU) – Impetus: International Year of Astronomy 2009 – Unique model for worldwide astronomy communications: • Non-traditional science outreach venues • Distributed Curation • Global-Local Methodology; Small affinity groups to provide interpretation, meaning, relevance • Process-based, transformative system of redistributing power (Krysa 2008); new capacity building of empowered practitioners may lead to sustainability
  6. 6. Viral FETTU results, no two exhibits were the same. Simple exhibits served as platform for varying experiences from talks and debates, to games and arts & crafts, to experiments and citizen science initiatives. >1000 locations in >70 countries text translated into >40 languages
  7. 7. From Earth to the Solar System (FETTSS) – A collection of 90 images that cover astrophysics, astrobiology, and planetary science – >100 FETTSS sites worldwide – Exercise in sustainability
  8. 8. Collaborato r Locale No. of Surveys Males Females Avg. Age Corpus Christi U. Texas Shopping Mall 50 25 25 34 National Air and Space Museum, DC Outside 52 29 23 42 Central Florida Univ. University Library 33 18 15 28 Union Station Kansas City Retired train station/mall 14 7 7 33 Penn State, PA Off-Campus Art Gallery 48 20 28 47 Univ. Puerto Rico Community Library 49 28 21 25 Total 246 127 119 35 •Preliminary evaluation data analysis:
  9. 9. How Did Participants Feel About Their FETTSS Experience “Very exciting and informative. My 7yr. old liked it very much. I will look up info for him.” “Beautifully done. Am coming back.” “Incredible photo, (Victoria Crater), looking straight down on the crater. Wonderful color, imagery.” “I enjoyed the fact that it was a blend of science and art.” “Very interested in astronomy now.” “Kepler project is surprising. Will follow that one.” “I would like to have seen some models of the space probes. Also, an interactive exhibit would be a better learning experience.” “Explanations were slightly hard to understand.”
  10. 10. “Venus rotates opposite Earth’s rotation.” “That not all stars go from a Red Giant to a Blue Giant.” “I enjoyed learning about the various conditions on the planets. I found the Geminid meteor mystery really interesting.” “That the rings of Saturn resulted from a collision with a moon.” “About Uranus. I did not know it rotated sideways.” “The size of the spot on Jupiter is the size of the Earth.” What Did Participants Learn
  11. 11. Participants Reactions to Images “Extreme Yellowstone and the stromatolites— they are geology— related which is part of my degree.” “Saturn’s rings because I had no idea how small they were and how they may have been formed from a moon crashing into the planet.” “The up-close image of the surface of Europa. The geometry of the lines doesn’t look natural and I love how abstract the image is.” “The great storm on Jupiter is so mysterious.” “Mars Victoria crater. Reminded me of the human eye—stunning!” “Our “Milky Way”, great to see tiny details.” “The Aurora Borealis stood out the most. It is so beautiful and something I will have a chance to experience in May.” “Solar climate; It looks interesting. I did not know what it was. Learned there are storms on a star.”
  12. 12. Research questions for longitudinal studies – Who is attracted with these “everyday situations”? • More incidental visitors than intentional visitors with public science? Female/male ratios? Age? • Less-science-initiated audience than science centers/planetariums? – Do participants follow up with local science center, library or other resources? – Is there any adjustment of participant identity/non- identity with science through public science?
  13. 13. • Simultaneously, further research on public understanding of astronomy images with Aesthetics & Astronomy project. – Papers/articles at • Latest data analysis includes evidence for understanding what type of story format may lead to increased participant comprehension and retention; and what type of materials may be best for digital platform implementations. (+New studies on color and comprehension/misconception/trust forthcoming) – To be submitted 2013, Curator, Science Communication
  14. 14. Public science on Wikipedia 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. Twitter: @kimberlykowal
  15. 15. References Bell, P., Lewenstein, B., Shouse, A. W., Feder, M. A. (Eds). (2009). Learning science in informal environments: People, places and pursuits. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Crettaz von Roten, F. (2011) In search of a new public for scientific exhibitions or festivals: the track of casual visitors, JCOM Journal of Science Communication. Vol. 10 Issue 01, pp 1-8. Diamond, S. (2008). “Participation, Flow, Redistribution of Authorship” Paul, C. (Ed.), New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art. Berkeley: University of California Press. Krysa, J. (2008). Distributed Curating & Immateriality. Paul, C. (Ed.), New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art. Berkeley: University of California Press. Lave, J. & Wenger, E., (1993). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press. Norsted, B. A., (2010). Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Science Outreach to Non-traditional Audiences. Barnes, J., Smith, D.A., Gibbs, M.G., Manning, J.G. (Eds.), Science Education and Outreach: Forging a Path to the Future. ASP Conference Series, Vol. 431, p.170-173. Riise, J. (2008), Bringing Science to the Public, in D. Cheng, M. Claessens, T. Gascoigne, J. Metcalfe, B. Schiele, S. Shi (eds), Communicating Science in Social Contexts, Brussels, Springer, 301-309. Stafford, B.M., (1999). Artful Science: Enlightenment entertainment and the eclipse of visual education. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.