Taking the science stories to the people – Reaching diverse audiences through venue changes

Taking the science stories to the people – Reaching diverse audiences through venue changes

Author: Jessica B. Turner-Skoff – The Morton Arboretum, United States

Krisztina Eleki – Chicago Council on Science and Technology
Alexandra Prokuda – Chicago Council on Science and Technology

The Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST) is a not-for-profit organization that strives to increase the scientific literacy of Chicago’s citizens through live storytelling and interactions with the public. Unlike most informal science education (ISE) organizations, such as museums, zoos and arboreta, C2ST relies on local partners for venue locations. According to The National Academy of Sciences, connecting with and engaging a diverse audience is one of the five goals of science communication. However, a historic challenge for ISE outreach is engaging diverse populations. C2ST works towards inclusivity with their programming and storytelling for the approximate 10 million residents of the Chicagoland area.

Previous to July 2015, C2ST hosted a majority of its programming at a university in downtown Chicago. In late 2015, C2ST started varying the locations of their programming throughout the Chicago Metropolitan area. This shift in location presented a unique opportunity to study the effects of venue variation on audience composition. Using data from post-surveys from C2ST’s attendees, we evaluated measures of diversity, defined as age, ethnicity, and education level, prior to July 2015 (pre-shift) and post July 2015 (post-shift). Venue location was classified as the zip code of the venue.

The distributions of all three diversity measures were significantly different between C2ST’s pre-shift attendees and post-shift attendees (p < 0.05). A generalized linear regression demonstrated that the ethnicity of C2ST’s attendees varied significantly with the location of the venues, suggesting that venue variation increased the ethnic diversity of the audience. ISEs are important tools for increasing the scientific literacy of society and can be improved by using evidence-based methods. Together these results show that shifting the location of ISE outreach may be a valuable strategy for reaching traditionally underrepresented communities in urban centers. We outline a strategy that other ISEs can implement to increase audience reach. The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices