Science outreach

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Science outreach, also called Education and Public Outreach (EPO or E/PO) or simply public outreach,[citation needed] is an umbrella term for a variety of activities by research institutes, universities, and institutions such as science museums, aimed at promoting public awareness (and understanding) of science and making informal contributions to science education.

Scope and history[edit]

While there have always been individual scientists interested in educating the public, science outreach has recently become more organized. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) now requires all of its projects to organize suitable outreach activities.[citation needed] Also working to inform the public are organizations such as Communicating Astronomy to the Public[1] and the Washington Declaration on Communicating Astronomy to the Public[2] that organize conferences for the public on science issues and make efforts to put outreach on a more general institutional footing.

Recently, an increasing number of projects have been hiring designated outreach scientists (part-time or full-time) that handle public relations on for their project. There are also specialized outreach providers such as the Education branch of the Space Science Institute[3] in Boulder, Colorado and the Education and Public Outreach Group at Sonoma State University which offer to organize a project's outreach activities on a contractual basis.

In addition to outreach by research institutions, an important part of informal science education are outreach programs such as science museums and science festivals.

Examples of science outreach activities[edit]

Science outreach can take on a variety of forms.

Public talks/lectures/discussions[edit]

Universum für Alle: 70 short popular lectures at Heidelberg University.[4]

Lectures are probably the oldest form of science outreach, dating back to the 1820s when Michael Faraday organized the first of the Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures.[5]

Public talks can be part of a lecture series, given at a science festival or in cooperation with a special interest group such as a local astronomy club. Public presentations can have a variety of formats, including straightforward lecture formats with or without experimental demonstrations, guided live interviews, and discussions with several participants and a moderator. There are also less formal are initiatives such as Café Scientifique, in which a café or bar is the venue for regular meetings involving guest scientists that come to talk about their work or take part in discussions with members of the public.

Visiting primary and secondary schools[edit]

School students and teachers are an important target group for science outreach. Outreach activities can include scientists visiting schools, giving talks at assemblies, discussions with students, or participation in events such as career fairs and science and technology camps. One organization that focuses on this kind of science outreach is Robogals. Many universities also have science outreach programs that are dedicated to building relationships between high school students, university scientists, and K-12 teachers. A few of the most prominent university science outreach programs include Carolina Science Outreach,[6] the Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science,[7] the Rockefeller University Science Outreach Program,[8] and the Stanford University Office of Science Outreach.[9] Using Canada as an example, it has been estimated that with sufficient organization, every classroom from kindergarten through graduation could in practice receive a visit from one or more scientists annually with participation from only 10-15% of the scientific enterprise.[10]

Workshops/schools for teachers and/or students[edit]

Cover of the ALMA radioastronomy manual.[11]

Inviting groups of school students to a research institution for a workshop is another popular form of outreach. Formats range from a one-day visit to more involved week-long events such as Perimeter Institute's International Summer School for Young Physicists, a two-week-long programs for a total of a hundred Canadian and international students from grade 11.[12]

Another method of science outreach invites school teachers to participate in workshops where they are able to learn effective strategies to engage students in science. This approach was especially embraced by the Canadian Space Agency which held an annual "Space Educators" conference up until 2012 to provides teachers with access to resources to educate their students in space-related science.[13]

Supporting science fairs and similar events[edit]

Besides organizing independent events, many outreach organizations sponsor existing events that promote sciences awareness. A notable examples are science fairs, public science events in which working scientists can participate both as judges and as sponsors of student projects.


A number of awards honor commitment to science outreach. Examples include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Communicating Astronomy to the Public
  2. ^ Washington Declaration on Communicating Astronomy to the Public
  3. ^ Education branch of the Space Science Institute
  4. ^ "New Book Showcases ESO Images". ESO Announcements. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "The RI Christmas Lectures (Royal Institution Website)". 
  6. ^ "Carolina Science Outreach". 
  7. ^ "Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science". 
  8. ^ "Rockefeller University Science Outreach Program". 
  9. ^ "Stanford University Office of Science Outreach". 
  10. ^ Bechara J. Saab, "Engaging the Clutch of the Science Communication Continuum – Shifting Science Outreach into High Gear", Hypothesis Volume 8 Issue 1 (September 2010).
  11. ^ "ALMA Material for Teachers". Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  12. ^ International Summer School for Young Physicists
  13. ^ "Canadian Space Agency Educators Resources". 
  14. ^ Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  15. ^ Descartes Prize for Excellence in Science Communication
  16. ^ Communicator award, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
  17. ^ Synapse Mentorship Awards
  18. ^ Nicholson Medal for Human Outreach

External links[edit]