The science communication lab – An expert-based study on design requirements for technology exhibitions

The science communication lab – An expert-based study on design requirements for technology exhibitions

Author: Christine Mauelshagen – RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Eva-Maria Jakobs – RWTH Aachen University
Samir Reynolds – University of Waterloo


This contribution deals with studies on designing and evaluating scientific exhibitions in an informal learning environment using different science communication formats. The lessons learned will be used to design an exhibition focusing on the issue of energy technologies, especially power distribution grids. The exhibition is part of the research campus “Flexible Electrical Networks” at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. The exhibition-project’s aim is developing and testing new (digital) science communication formats for innovative and complex energy technologies – the so-called “science communication lab”.

The study investigates two research questions:

How should exhibits on complex technologies be designed?
How can science communication formats for complex technologies in exhibitions be evaluated?

First, a quantitative online survey was set up to reach a wide range of experts on museum design and curation (n=29). The survey contained questions about the museum experience, exhibition design for complex scientific topics, and science museums’ and centers’ target groups. The dataset was analyzed statistically.

To gain further insight into the topic, curators and designers from well-known technology and science museums were interviewed (n=4). The semi-structured expert interviews contained questions about exhibition designs for complex technologies, science communication, and evaluation. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. The dataset was analyzed by qualitative content analysis.

Both datasets were collected in summer 2017.


The results serve as input for the exhibition concept and ways of communicating complex scientific topics using different science communication formats while providing valuable input for evaluation. E.g., the results provide helpful hints about the importance of various descriptors of a museum exhibit – such as thought-provoking or entertaining – and the design of hands-on exhibits. Further selected results refer to topic-focused exhibition content, target groups, or establishing a personal connection to the visitor linked to his everyday life.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice